27 September 2009

Short-cut confirmed, and the question of Sleep

Just got of the phone with the Patersons who run the farm north of Lees valley - we have a green light to pass through their property. This is excellent news - the alternative would have been to stay on public roads (some of them busy) and gone the long way round the south side of Mt Grey. We won't know the finer details of this short-cut for a while (the Topomap is incorrect, so we'll need local man Ben Kepes to check it out for us) but I can tell you it will be about 60 km of gravel road and some farm track between Lees Pass and Hurunui.

While out riding last Saturday morning, my friend Andrew and I were caught up to by a guy called Brad. It was about 9:30am and he'd been riding since 4am (and still had about 100 km to ride to get home). We rode together for a bit and chatted about ultracycling. He'd come second in the Taupo Audax a couple of times and was interested in doing the Race Across America. He mentioned a couple of people had died in that race recently.

It got me thinking about safety a bit more seriously. Roughly 15% of New Zealand's road toll is attributed to fatigue-related accidents. People drift off ever-so briefly and then veer off the road or into an oncoming vehicle. The Ministry of Transport is currently considering adopting a European law which forbids driving if you've been awake for more than 24 hours.

Ultracycling usually doesn't require any amount of sleep, although Adventure races sometimes deny access to dangerous sections of a course after dark. The Kiwi Brevet is different from a normal brevet in that there will be some very long stints between towns and some very rough tracks where navigation is tricky; and it's different from the Great Divide races in that 50% of the course is on sealed roads shared with New Zealand's driving public (so you'll need your wits about you). It's different from RAAM in that there will be no support crew driving behind to pick you up if you fall off your bike. And...the Kiwi Brevet is NOT a race.

All this considered, and after much discussion with riders likely to do the event, we've decided to introduce a new rule:

"Between noon one day and noon the next, every rider must spend at least one block of at least four hours not travelling. That is, the maximum time any rider may spend travelling along the course will be 20 hours (between each noon-to-noon period)."

This can be monitored by reviewing riders' SPOT navigational tracking device.
We're not suggesting you limit yourself to four hours sleep per day. You'll surely enjoy yourself more if you sleep closer to eight hours. But you might decide to get a really early start on one day (and catch up on sleep another). Anyway, as with all the rules at this stage, it's just a draft. We'd love your feedback.