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.
On Saturday I rode a two stage Tasman Wheelers race. The first stage was a 30km graded scratch race that headed out over Rai Saddle. I started in B grade and along with some of the older guys got dropped on the hilly bits. I just don’t have the legs to keep up with the young guys. We had a nice descent from the saddle. I tried to mash the pedals as I used to do quite well on the flat. It wasn’t awful but I didn’t feel like I was producing the power I’d have liked to. Before the finish line an A grader, Mike, caught up with a young B grader in tow (the only one I managed to drop). I sat on and sprinted at the finish.
I started with the young B grader for the return race. It was a handicap race back. We worked together well but I couldn’t keep up with him going up the saddle and dropped off the pace as he rode away with some others. A few more passed me until Mike caught up again riding like a mad thing. I jumped on and to my surprise managed to stay on his wheel. I was working hard to keep up. He got away a few times in the descent but I managed to get back on even taking some turns at the front.
Near the end it suddenly began to pour with rain and sweat and sunblock ran into my eyes making them sting. I could hardly see where I was going having to close my eyes every few seconds. There was water everywhere but I followed. Another turn at the front I think. Then we could see the front bunch before us. Mike caught them up and then sprinted past. I stayed on his wheel for a bit but then a gap opened up. Still we were in front of the bunch and I sprinted across the line behind him and another guy who had managed to get on Mike’s wheel. It was good fun.
Two stage Tasman Wheelers race
I headed back to Nelson, got sorted and drove to the Rai Valley where I met Finnish Annu. We left her car there and drove with mine to French Pass. We pitched our tents just before it started raining heavily. It cleared later and we made a simple pasta meal before heading down to the beach to chat and look at the sky, now full of stars.
The following day we had a nosey around French Bay before driving back to Elaine Bay. It was warm and sunny and by chance we found a guy renting out a double kayak. We took the opportunity and rolled the kayak down to the shore. We spent about 3 hours kayaking in the beautiful sounds with blue sky and mostly flat water. We stopped briefly at Deep Bay and then kayaked across to the Matai Bay hut. It looks like a nice little place to stay. We then battled into a head wind until we had shelter behind and island. It was a cruisy paddle back to Elaine Bay.
I did a nice road cycling loop out into the Marlborough Sounds today.
I drove to the Rai Valley mid morning and parked near the turn off to the roads that head North to the bays. The Nelson weather had been playing a nasty trick on me again. It was delicious, blue and sunny as I left but in the Rai Valley it was grey and cloudy. Still I set off towards Okiwi Bay. The climb was quite nice and I soon got into it. The descent into the bay was also nice. The weather wasn’t so bad. It was reasonably warm. There was native bush on each side of the road so it was quite pretty. I rode up the next climb continuing along French Pass road and then rolled along the windy road. At the turn off to Elaine Bay I left the road.
I took my shoes off and began pushing my bike up a very stony steep track that climbed for a couple of hundred metres up near the power lines. It then sidled around the hill climbing and dropping before descending steeply. It turns out this was all wrong and the track Georgia had meant heads around the bays and is much more ridable and happy. My track took about 2 hours and left me in Tuna Bay at the head of Tennyson Inlet. I came out by the World’s End street sign, which was funny. I was there 6 weeks earlier with Ari.
From there I followed the pretty road around near the sea that winds and climbs and drops to Harvey Bay. Then I stomped up the hill feeling good to Opouri Saddle. The descent from there is steep, narrow, and winding. I time trialled back to the car and drove back to Nelson.
Above left: I did a nice road cycling loop that started in the Rai Valley and headed towards Okiwi Bay. Above right: There was a section from Elaine Bay to Tennyson Inlet that was definitely not ridable. Unfortunately I took the less optimal route up along a random stony track instead of heading around by the seashore.
Above left: I could see down into Elaine Bay. Above right: A bit too technical for road cycling.