It’s been a long time since I rode the Graperide. I entered last year but Covid stopped it happening and my entry was deferred to this year. This is the part where I list all the excuses why I didn’t win… After a busy week at work and being ill on Friday I wasn’t sure I’d ride the race but as I was to pick up Craig on Saturday afternoon from Picton anyway, I decided I’d head over and see how I felt. I stayed the night at Annu’s flat in Blenheim.
I drove out to the start line and hid my car on a side road on Saturday morning. It was a cold clear morning and the weather was supposed to be fantastic. I cycled to the start and lined up early at the back of the 2 hours 45 minutes wave. This seemed reasonable as it was 10 minutes slower than me 2009 winning time. This was my folly. The sign was misleading. Many many slow looking people lined up in front of me and instead of letting everyone off in waves dictated by their signs they let people off in small bunches of perhaps 60 people. Grrrr. I waited and waited and waited as the people in front slowly started. Then the people who were pushing in the side snuck in front and started too. Anyway….
I crossed the start line and rode hard to the front of our bunch of slowpokes. There were a couple of faster guys and we worked together much of the way to Picton until nobody at all seemed to be keen to work. At the little hill into Picton I rode off the front with a couple of guys. Then again out of Picton onto Queen Charlotte drive I rode away with one other guy. By this stage it was really nice and warm and the views down into the sounds were amazing. The ride along QC drive was really nice although not very fast. I rode alone mostly catching some stragglers and passing them. Later slightly before the turn off to Linkwater a bunch began to form and we rode very slowly into a headwind until the last climb before Havelock. I rode to the front with a couple of others and we increased the pace dropping the bunch before descending towards Havelock.
There were five of us as we began working together back towards Blenheim. One guy dropped off early. We worked well, regulating our pace so as not to drop anyone else. We were riding a good pace but as we came to a hill two guys powered up behind us. We jumped on and one guy put in an amazing effort and towed us for the next 10 minutes at over 40 km/h. I wish my legs would let me do that. I don’t seem to have much power these days. My legs began to feel a bit cooked. We rotated some more and then I sat at the back until the last bridge where I took another turn. We turned off the highway and it was a couple of km to the finish line. Nothing much happened in terms of sprints.
A nice ride all up but an aggravating start. Given the poor starting position I wasn’t too much slower than 2009, at around 20 minutes slower. The course is also slightly different from 2009 but I’m not sure if it’s longer or shorter.
Above: 2009’s result was faster but I also had a much better start, had trained more, and was 12 years younger… Not sure how much of a difference age has made. These are the results before they were mysteriously altered some weeks later.
I’m lying in the Crow Hut after a nice day of tramping with Jeremy.
It went like this. Katie and I drove down to Klondyke corner and picked up Jeremy from there in the morning leaving his car in the car park.
We started walking up the avalanche peak track. Katie told us to go ahead as she wanted to walk her pace. We walked ahead and took a break at the bush line. It was sunny but fresh but it looked like the weather might pack in later. We kept going. It was warm in the sun but then the cloud rolled in as we reached the last climb to the summit ridge. The cloud vanished again as we reached the ridge and we had great views and almost no wind at the top.
We dropped off the summit towards Bealy and then looped back around under Avalanche Peak to a saddle. Then it was a descent into the main ridge towards Rolleston.
We had periods of cold wind and then points where it was completely still again.
It was mostly sunny.
We stopped for lunch and I decided that it wasn’t too shabby all in all.
The scree descent is well marked and the screes before this all end in bluffs so should be avoided.
Unfortunately the scree was decidedly average and not runnable. We slipped and slid down the slope trying not to do our ankles (as we are old men after all).
Once at the bottom it was a short walk down stream to the very nice Crow Hut.
A family showed up later in the afternoon and pitched tents outside the hut.
We drank a lot of tea and ate a variety of junk food and freeze dry meals.
A nice day of tramping.
Hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow and we’ll scamper out the Waimak and head home.
It took us about 4.5 hours-ish with breaks to get to Crow Hut.
It was grey and threatening to rain as we left the hut but we could see blue sky down in the valley. We walked down the crow river leaving the spots of rain behind and emerged at the waimak. We were greeted by a rainbow and nice views up the valley. The mountains reminded me of Europe. We walked out to the car and headed back to Christchurch.
I flew down to Christchurch on Thursday and worked remotely on Friday (although a healthy amount of time was spent drinking beer with Nick at the adventure park). In the evening Katie, Gina, Cass, Simon and family, and I drove to Port Levy Saddle and walked to the Rod Donald Hut. Due to all manner of disorganised-ness we arrived at the saddle at different times in different cars. I transported (formerly) my ladies and noted that I was slowly paying down my massive taxi-ing debt that I racked up in my previous pre-Europe life. They noted that the debt was great and the trip was short.
The Smalley’s had already set off when we arrived at Port Levy Saddle and after some faffing we did too. It was a short walk to the hut. We walked along the ridge in the moonlight with just a couple of headlamps between the four of us. Once at the hut we made hot chocolates and desserts and the girls toasted marshmallows on a candle that Gina lit. After the kids went to bed we lay outside in the grass near the hut. It was a warm night with some wind. The hills were illuminated by the almost full moon. It was very nice. We kept an eye on the stars and chatted. I asked Gina if the last 21 years had been good. We retired later to the hut to sleep.
The hut is a tidy nine bunk arrangement that you can book. I’d booked it all, which was nice.
On Saturday we made pancakes downstairs in the kitchen and started the day slowly. Before leaving, we hid Easter eggs outside for the girls to relive the great Otehake Easter Egg hunt from days gone by. The walk out was short again and we drove down to Little River for lunch. Such are the ways of us cafe dwelling types.
Gina and Katie headed off home and the rest of us went to Okains Bay for a night of camping.