Tim posted this on Vorb:
Blenheim 12pm. The clock chimes and we are off, following the wheels of local riders who direct us through the maze of rural back roads to the coast we make a funny site - a peleton of touring cyclists. It is not long until we are gasping for breath as our route takes us through a sand (and Matagouri) infested beach track. When we emerge I am amazed to see a small bunch of 4 of so riders way up ahead - an early break away into an 1100 km race!
Then we get to the first hill and we pity riders already removing wheels and removing Matagouri gauged tubes - I count 6 on the first hills and I am near the front. Lucky I have my Marathon XR tyres on which 'never' puncture'. I fall victim to the Matagouri too and soon watch most of the field ride past me. In my panic to change it was fast as I can, I suddenly stop - I still have a good 1090km to catch up, I may as well take my time.
On the hot day, the coastal road is energy sapping and when I finally arrive at Picton - 4.5 hours after leaving Blenheim for a paltry 65km I start to wonder how hard this thing is going to be. But i am determined to get over the Mangatapu tonight so push on arrving on the summit as dark sets in - don my rather lightless Petzl and somehow manage to negogiate the tricky descent in its meager light to the bottom where I pitch the fly at 10pm and have a restless night sleep, my limbs aching, my mind racing.
Am on the road by 5.30 am, cruise through Nelson as day breaks and Simon and John (aka Sifter) catch me in the back roads of Nelson. Sifter and I ride most of the day together up to St. Arnaud, over to Murchison via a gnarly descent to Lake Rotoroa and together with Simon we hammer south down the gravel road as the light eases off before they head on to St. Arnaud in the dark and I pitch the tent on the Maruia at 10pm. I felt good today, much better than yesterday and am pleased at the days progress. Another fitfull nights sleep; 2 hours.
Seen as how I can't sleep, at 4 in the morning I figure I may as well start riding. As I pull out onto the road I bump into a couple who I ride with for a few minutes before making good progress to Reefton after a dousing of West coast rain welcomes us to the West Coast. Together wiht several others we settle on lining our stomachs with a "Working mans breakfast" - I already had a huge bowl of porridge 3 hours before. I am really starting to feeling it today. My knees are starting to feel the pain and I am starting to regret bringing the kitchen sink (cooker) and a few other bits and bobs which I could probably have done without. But this is touring, and it would feel a bit starnge to me touring without something to cook with and something to live in.
Next step is Big River, a section I am really looking foward to as i have been meaning to ride it for a long time. I never imagined I would end up riding it with panniers and after doing 400km in the previous 48 hours but that's the way it is. It soon all goes horribly wrong. I have a photocopy on the Kennet guide for the trip which also has the Reefton Lookout ride on the same page. I start following the wrong directions and before I know it am passed the viewpoint (can't see a damn thing because of the mist) only to realise I have made a mistake. On my rush to get back and mad at my mistake, my rack breaks and my panniers fall off; then I get stung by a bee. I stop to calm my frustrations down realising that things are only going to get worse if I continue like this, recompose myself and head the right way up to Big River hut. Its 36km or there abouts and it takes 7 hours. Simon catchs me and he cops some abuse - he gets a lot more (and deservedly so) from others as the day/ride progresses.
We regroup - 5 of us at the road and make very fast progres along the flat lands south and then east towards Arthurs Pass. The others are keen for a big push to the pub at Aitkins but I am spent and ease off, ticking the legs over, not really feeling or thinking anything, just totally spent but still making slow progress. I eventually stop, have a feed in the rain and a dash of energy arrives, i hammer along, picking up Thomas on the way and we swoop into the pub for a feed of bangers of mash and a 10 minute respite.
We set off at about 9.30ish in the rain for the ride to Arthurs Pass. Everyone seems to get on quite well and at 11.30pm, after 20.5 hours on the road with no more than 1 hours of that stationary I lie down in the public shelter and 1 minute later wake myself snoring. Another fitfull sleep though - as Thomas who is also sharing my illustrious accomadation wriggles in his bivy bag (literally a plastic bag) all night to keep warm.
A sleep-in this morning and am off at 6 - I am on a holiday after all! The ride to Sringfield in awful - or should that be I feel aweful. And as the bunch regroups everyone shares similar enthapies. But after 2 big meals and a stock up on supplies we tackle the Wharfedale easily - beautiful riding after the Big River massacre of the day before and yet again, it is Simon, Sifter and i stomping out the big gears up the Lees valley as the day strecthes on. As we emerge the other side the long gravel roads are endless and I eventually loose my nerve trying to keep up with these two as they hammer down in the dark. I go into cruise mode and eventually arrive in Culverden after 270km at about 11pm with Chris who catches me just before its outskirts. Too lazy to put my fly up I just sleep on the grass in the local park and actually have the best sleep of the whole trip - a whole 5 hours!
I cruise into Hamner feeling like death early in the morning wondering why I am doing this stupid race,mission, tour, torture - what ever it is. As I stare at my pie and cake at the bakery I want to barf and I struggle to stomach anything all morning. The thought of the ride through to Belheim makes me feel even worse. Simon suggests we stay in Hamner and soak in the pools all day, but it doesnt happen as slowly the few riders mignling around take off by themselves - there will be no team efforts in getting over this strech. Riding up over Jollies onto the Molesworth I am a sorry site and the long long 80km or so corrogated ride to Acheron Station which has to be ridden in sprint mode seems like the most awful piece of riding I have ever done.
Joined by Simon and Sifter again, they soon drop me as I bomb and I figure I will never see them again as I struggle against the wind, the cold and tortously steep ascents (in the descent) of the Molesworth. Then, after nearly 10 hours in the saddle with a poultry 120 or so km to show for it, my body comes right again. It appears it is Sifters time to bomb as his eyes hang like he hasn't slept for a month. I put my head down and pound the countless corrugatons (not as bad as the other side), hills and rain, finally hitting the glorious tarmac and make fast progress down the Awatere. I catch Michi who I drop on the last big climb and finally, there it is, the turn off over the saddle to take me to Blenheim. It is dark now and once again donning my inadequate petzl I find my way up the hill and into the final descent. Bombing down the descent not really being able to see anything, I hit a patch of gravel, head side ways before straightening up and before I know it I am over the handlebars are splayed all over the road. I am 10km from the finish! I continue the descent much slower.
I have much difficulty finding the track to route me into the finish and I bump and squirm my way through it, falling off a couple of more times thinking how ridiculous this whole thing is and how I am never going to it again, and did I mention how hungry, cold and tired I am. I ditch the track for the road happy to take whatever penalty comes my way, but happier in the knowledge that I will be actually able to find the finish.
The fountain is a beautifil sight. The park is trobbing with thousands of well-wishers and streamers and fire-works charge off with the excitement. Well, Ok that was a lie, but there was a man there to shake my hand. I tried waiting for the others but I started to shiver, so doned the helmet and went off in search of my car and some dry clothes.
I had a great 5 hours sleep in my car on the side of the road in Blenheim. When I awoke i was already planning what to do differently next year; that is despite spending most of the race vowing never to get involved in such folly again. But overall a great event, a real test of endurance and stamina and general will-power. I hope it happens again next year exactly the same as this year. There will be the same moans and gripes that are sure to come out of this years one (some of them will probably be mine), but in a way that's kind of the point of it all... Thanks Simon and co. for organising such a 'different' event.
P.S... My knees hurt bad!