20 February 2012

Share the Kiwi Brevet experience

If you are interested in sharing your experiences from the 2012 Kiwi Brevet then please use this form to send us your high-lights! None of the questions are compulsory, but they will all be published. If you have an online presence/blog/site then you could include that link in the bottom box.
Form here: http://tinyurl.com/kiwibrevetexperience
Results here: http://tinyurl.com/kiwibrevetexperienceresults

18 February 2012


I was really impressed to see almost everybody make it round the entire course. It certainly sounds like it was harder in the clockwise direction, although the weather gods were on your side most of the time.

The following people finished (an asterisk denotes a rider finishing the Kiwi Brevet for the second time):

Alastair Brown & Martin Harry
Alex Revell
Andrew Carman
Andrew King (most disturbed digestive system)
Andy Gilbert & Tony Little (tandem finsihers, and still talking to each other)
Bill Fry (started with zero training)
Charlotte Ireland* & Tim Collinson
Christopher Gilbertson*
Craig McGregor (Rapid Adaptation award for his sudden transition from road brevets)
Darren Tatom* (most stylish tan lines)
Dave Sharpe (most esoteric text-ins)
David Kleinjan (single speed, with bonus style points for chopper flag)
Dean Johansson
Geof Blance ('Hard-arse' award for back-to-back brevets)
Hana Black
Jeff Lyall* (Voodoo Lounge team captain)
Jimmy Finlayson
Jo Smith
Joel McFarlane-Roberts* & Clair Graydon
Jonty Ritchie*
Julie Williams & Thomas Ekholm
Karin Pehrson (first woman to finish on a CX bike)
Lance Griffin (still smiling while recovering from the Tour Divide)
Matt Gerstenberger* (most improved appetite)
Matthew Kemp & Kerrie Noonan
Michelle Cole & Joshua Kench
Mick Brown & Owen Hughes (best time-lapse photos & most broken spokes)
Mike Revell (the only grandfather?)
Nathan Mawkes*
Ollie Whalley* (first to breach the minimum time limit, by half a day)
Pat Hogan* (biggest bonk on day 1)
Paul Becker
Peter Maindonald* (most improved - failed to make the 8-day cut in 2010)
Richard Davies
Scott Emmens
Stephen Butterworth (single speed)
Thomas Lindup* (bonus for most extra distance covered)
Tor Madsen

Only two people pulled the pin along the way, and Graeme Head took a few short-cuts after losing a day to a broken derailleur near Hanmer, but carried on round to Blenheim. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, several people pulled out in the week prior to the brevet.

The trip reports and photo albums from finishers are coming in thick and fast - there are a dozen posted in the right-hand column already and they make for great reading!

If you are Wellington-based and want to catch up for some tall tales, there will be pizza at Revolution Bicycles in Northland this Thursday (the 23rd Feb). Thanks Jonty.

Thanks to everyone who helped get this show on the road:
My wife, Sarah and bros, Paul and Jonathan for putting up with me.
The Pattersons for land access through MacDonald Downs Station.
Pat Hogan for organising the SPOT hire.
Jeff Lyall for a bunch of work to make the blog more interesting.
Andrew for doing the cue sheets (in a style which kept you on your toes).
John Randal for the daily previews.
Nathan Mawkes for the altitude graphs and reversed google map).
Mondo & Lisa for having me to stay in Blenheim.
Duncan for hosting the briefing in style.
Cycle World for opening early and collecting the SPOTs.
Dave King for getting the SPOTs to us pronto after his brevet.
Various locals who sent through photos for the blog.
Scott, Matthew and Louise for organising the SPOT tracking technical stuff.
And all the riders who contributed to the $3,264 raised for Project K (and chipped in for the Leaderboard cost).

The third Kiwi Brevet will be in 2014 - you have two years to find the perfect saddle. The start will be in Blenheim at noon on the 1st of February. We'll be heading in an anti-clockwise direction.

Pedal on!


13 February 2012

Darren Tatom's Le Voyage d'un Sot

Le voyage d'un sot (journey of a fool)

What have I forgotten? Standing in Seymour Square looking at my meagerequipment, I had a feeling I was  under-prepared for the unsupported 1100km ride we were about to embark upon. My skinny 35mm tyres looked woefully inadequate for the task as I compared my gear to others who were riding.

The mood was expectant; even anxious. Nervous laughter erupted occasionally from the 50 or so riders present as they compared war stories and equipment purchases. 9am rolled closer and after a group photo we were off! I followed the leaders up Taylor Pass road, Simon accompanied us to the top, he looked rather disparagingly at my setup, but I guess he knew from the last Brevet that I would slog it out somehow to the end. He commented that the 6 hour stop time each day was probably not suited to me due to my chronic insomnia. I replied that it was probably for  the best and would save me riding 20 hours per day.

My strategy was simple..just spend more time on the bike than the others. My strength had never been speed and I was always best to set my own pace and settle into a meditative rhythm. I had no speedo or GPS I felt best just listening to my body and going inside my own head. I had completed the last Brevet in 4 days 9 hours or so and the goal was to get under that..even approach the 4 day minimum. Everyone had their own goals for the journey..this was mine!

No sooner had I reassured myself of the goal I was banging out a strong pace with Geof and one of the single speed riders. As the day heated up I started feeling pretty rotten and withing 2 hours I was starting to cramp up and feel nauseous. I found it hard to breathe..was I drinking enough? Was I carrying an illness? As the journey up the Awatere continued riders kept passing. I was too wrapped up in pain and discomfort to be humiliated. I made it to the Molesworth station where quite a few riders were resting..they looked happy and fresh. I filled up with water and chugged on. Appalling cramps plagued me for a total of 10 hours. At one stage the pain was so bad I bit down and pulled a muscle in my jaw. This would be a reminder of my foolishness for not riding within my capabilities. If I didn't get myself sorted, my plan was sunk!

I followed Scott into Hanmer and treated myself to pasta and beer. Other riders who had come in earlier were eating takeaways and looking relaxed..i just needed rest. I bivvied at a campground, at least I was resting but no sleep was to be had. I set off just after 6am feeling rather better than yesterday. I met up

with Peter in Culverden and he caught me up and had a chat in lees Valley. He was the last rider I was to speak with for the next 3 days.

The Wharfedale track was surprisingly easy even with the skinny tyres. I was then set for the road section where these tyres would come into their own. While downing pies at the Sheffield pub locals informed me that porter's Pass was closed due to an accident, and anyway it was inadvisable to go to the high country..after all people had been skiing there only a couple of days ago. I knew I needed more K’s to keep on target and I knew quite a few would be leaving the climbing until tomorrow and staying at Springfield. I headed up towards the Pass. Great volumes of traffic were heading for Christchurch..It looked like the pass was open! I called ahead and booked the backpackers at Flock Hill. As I topped the last rise before the Cragieburn cut, a car passed me, pulled into a lay-by and switched its lights off. 'here we go' I thought..there was no-one around this could be trouble! As I neared the car there was an enormous din of metal on metal and shouts of 'allez allez'. Some friends had been staying at Castle Hill and were watching my progress online. Hugs all round and a quick chat were a real boost. I headed down to the digs for the night.

I was settling into a rhythm now, I felt I was in my power band, the pedals rotating effortlessly. I was undoubtedly moving slower than many, but I was able to sustain 16-18 hours in a day with few stops. Text messages from friends around Stillwater revealed that Thomas had missed the turnoff at Jackson's, which only left Ollie in front of me! Of course he was a long way ahead. I figured he would probably hit Blenheim at well under the 4 days. There were also 2 riders 20k or so behind, Lance whom I did not know and Geof who I had ridden with yesterday morning. I recalled that Geof had done well in the great Southern Brevet a couple of weeks before. If I could stay ahead of these guys as long as possible I might still be on track for the planned finish time..things were looking up!

After a miserable slog through the Waiuta and Big River tracks I hit Reefton as dark was descending. I asked at the motor lodge, but their kitchen was closed. The other bar patrons sniggered at my muddied and pathetic appearance. The barmaid could sell me some chips and a beer, or perhaps I could try down the road. Nothing was open! I pulled into a cheap motel and downed a meal of canned spam, cheese and bread. At least I was keeping ahead of my pursuers. I had no concern about whether I beat anyone to the finish line, but keeping this spot would keep my motivation high.

I set off for Springs Junction at 4am. As light filtered through the trees a gorgeous dawn chorus erupted. A jovial owner at the cafe sat with me and chatted away while I munched through a hearty cooked breakfast. The rest of the day passed in a pleasurable way, legs churning away, head somewhere else, thoroughly immersed in the satisfying rhythm and green world around me. The fearful grind up the Porika was followed by a strong headwind into St Arnaud. I was barely making headway even down hill!

I had lost my cue sheet somewhere on the Maruia Saddle. I was able to text home and Cath sent me the directions to Nelson. I guess I had blown the 'no outside assistance' rule, but there really was no alternative at this stage. In my own mind if didn’t feel like a significant transgression. In hindsight I should have saved the directions on the phone anyway. It had been a long day and I was shagged! The other two were still behind and I pulled the plug at Brightwater, knowing they would probably pass by in an hour or so and stay somewhere in town.

I set off again in the early hours of the morning, it took a surprisingly long time to get through Nelson on the cycleway..thank goodness I knew the way. Heading up the Maungatapu I took a wrong turn at the reservoir and wasted at least a half hour finding the route. About ½ way up the climb I heard a noise behind..they had caught me! I was really glad to see them, I'm not sure how they felt about me. I wondered what it had been like for them grinding away behind for the last few days. I hoped that their passing by would not put a hole in my motivation. I pulled into Pelorus Bridge cafe and they were breakfasting! We pulled out together and headed for Picton. I was aware they had probably formed a bond over the last days, but working together we fell into that easy cooperative camaraderie so common among experienced cyclists. Geof reminded me on several occasions that the barmaid at Reefton had taken a shine to them..opening the kitchen and sorting them out a bed for the night. She asked if they were with 'that other guy'... 'no' was their reply. They had dined on grilled chicken, fish, chips and salad they told me with great pleasure. I guess I had that coming!

The long grind from Picton to Blenheim began an we were setting quite strong pace. Would I be able to keep up? By Robin Hood bay I was really hammered and started to slow. Whether the other guys were slowing on my behalf or they were equally shagged I didn't ask. The mood lightened and the chat flowed easily once we hit Rarangi. We pulled into Seymour Square to applause and good wishes from a small

group of wellwishers. I was a couple of hours under my previous time! Much joy! I had much to thank Lance and Geof for..and they had been good companions in that last day. I crawled off and treated myself to a good nights accommodation, my butt sore as hell, my legs wobbly and my bald head resplendent with a stripey sunburn 'helmet head'

Post script: Skinny tyres

I used a Shwalbe Smart Sam on the front and Sammy Slick on the back, both 35mm cyclocross tyres. There is no doubt they are fast on the tarmac and not too bad on hard packed dirt roads. With a good technique they are reasonable on hard packed single-track and in mud they slice through rather than floating about like wider tyres. On the downside they are hopeless in the loose and miserably uncomfortable. It helped with the bike having front suspension and a carbon frame. Would I use them again?..definitely not! Should I have listened to everyone's advice..but of course! But after all this was 'le voyage d'un sot!'

12 February 2012

Some Photos from Hana

There are plenty more great pics in her album (see the link on the right).

If you do a search for 'Kiwi Brevet' in Facebook you'll find lots of interesting photos taken by various riders during the event.

10 February 2012

A few more images from out on the course

A sample from the Molesworth (thanks Dominic) and a couple more pics courtesy of Chris Charles in Nelson.

09 February 2012

Images of the early finishers

Thanks to Dominic for sending these in from Seymour Square, Blenheim.

08 February 2012

Some pics from Sunny Nelson

Thanks to Chris Charles for these shots of Nathan, Thomas and Matt.

07 February 2012

Day 5 Preview

Congratulations to Ollie Whalley for a super-impressive ride through to Blenheim today.  He snuck in a few minutes before 9pm, completing the course in 3.5 days.  Wow! 

My predictions weren't too bad yesterday night it seems, with Lance, Darren, and Geof sure to make Nelson tonight. 

Scott might make St Arnaud, but would have to negotiate the steep Porika in the dark to do so. 

Despite what we might imagine from watching Ollie's tracker all day, the ride into Blenheim is not a piece of cake.  I'd expect those who do get as far as Nelson before 6pm or so will push on up the Maitai Valley, before grovelling up the Maungatapu Track.  The climb will have most off their bikes I suspect, at the very least just above the dam, where a steep rocky section had me a little nervous in the opposite direction on my fully a month or so ago.

Beyond that point, the climb isn't as steep, but it is long, and exposed to the heat.  At the summit,the views to the north-east are amazing, and well worth stopping to absorb.

The view from the top of the Maungatapu is worth admiring

The descent on the other side should be an absolute blast.  It is less steep, and apart from the top, is pretty smooth going.  At the bottom of the track, they follow the Pelorus River down to Pelorus Bridge, where if they're early enough, might still have a cafe open. 

After Pelorus Bridge, the road is sealed all the way through to Picton, and a little beyond.  Supplies are plentiful too, with the Canvastown Trout Hotel, stores and cafes in Havelock and the store at Linkwater all good options. 

Riders might feel like they're almost there once they hit Picton, but treating the Port Underwood Road as a done deal would be a terrible mistake.  Pat Hogan (now making his way to Springs Junction) only got as far as Picton on Day 1 of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet, such were the climbs, and loose gravel surface.  Ollie took almost 4 hours to ride this final section this evening, so those who do make Picton late in the day might well need another night out on course before knocking the bugger off the next morning. 

It'll be fascinating to see how the 5th day on course plays out! 

* * * * *

I hope y'all have enjoyed the previews, and hope that they've made following the riders on the map a bit more fun with the added context.

My hat's off to all those who lined up for this Kiwi Brevet, and can't wait to start reading some of the blogs about it.  Also, a nod of thanks to Pat Hogan and Jeff Lyall who helped Simon out with some key jobs this year! 

I can't wait for the 2014 Kiwi Brevet.  Will be a hard choice between riding again, or spectating again!  Both are great options!

06 February 2012

Day 4 Preview

Day 3 is officially done and dusted at 9am on Tuesday, 72 hours after starting.  On the fourth day, Ollie Whalley will finish the 2012 Kiwi Brevet.   He'll be in St Arnaud before I drift off to sleep tonight, and my guess is he won't stop there.  With a downhill run into Nelson, a tough but manageable 8 hours' riding (or thereabouts) are all that lie between him and the end.

Those in his wake with have to leave the West Coast via Rahu Saddle, a nice sealed climb, before taking a gravel road out of Springs Junction on the western side of the river.  A bit more seal, and then a right turn off SH65 and a climb up to Maruia Saddle in some sweet bush.

Simon, at the top of Maruia Saddle
The climb to there last time was tough, so the descent should be awesome.  At the bottom they hook into a bridge across the Matakitaki River before heading north on fast gravel roads to Murchison.

They'll eat well at Murchison, before taking the Mangles Valley through to the Braeburn Track.  In the opposite direction, this was a highlight of the 2010 event, so should make for a nice mellow climb.  After a short descent, they'll be at Lake Rotoroa.  Hopefully they'll be feeling good, cos the Porika Track is about to smash the living daylights out of them.  It is steep and rough, though the roughness shouldn't bother them too much on foot.  I'm sure someone will ride it all, but whether it's worth doing so is another story.

The summit of the Porika is a gold-fossicking area, and hopefully the riders stop to read some of the signage.  The descent isn't as steep, and should give them a bit of respite after the brutal climb.  There will be a few kilometres on gravel before hooking onto SH63 for the run into St Arnaud.  There will be the last shops before Richmond down near Nelson.  It's entirely sealed roads to there so the going should be fast.

They're losing a lot of altitude to Nelson, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the guys who make Reefton tonight get to Nelson.  There's a large posse building in Blackball, so it may be that those guys are too hungover to ride far.  Hopefully the hapless Thomas will have good company and will avoid any further off-course deviations!

05 February 2012

Day 3 Preview

Well I totally suck at this crystal ball-gazing lark.  As I type, Ollie is getting pretty damn close to Blackball (not that the course passes through there...).

The crew have had a bit of a shocker with navigation today - the turnoff to MacDonald Downs was an issue for some, and quite a few turned away from the Wharfedale in Lees Valley.

For a large chunk of the field, Day 3 will start from Sheffield or Springfield, followed by a big old sealed climb up to Porters Pass.  The traverse to Arthurs Pass is riddled with small climbs, but a big feed, and a huge descent await.  The drop down through Otira and to Jacksons should be very fast, and then riders turn off to do a mostly gravel lap out the back of Lake Brunner.  Then, they cross the Grey River and make there way north-west to Ikamatua on the unsealed side. 

The riders will be stocking up at the Ikamatua store, assuming its open on Waitangi Day.  The Waiuta-Big River loop awaits.

Not the Big River hut at Big River
DOC took to it with dynamite since the last Brevet, so it should be a bit less arduous than two years ago.  Reefton might be a good place to call it a night for some, though, we'll no doubt see some going over Rahu Saddle to Springs Junction or beyond.

At the rate Ollie's going, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get as far as St Arnaud.  Surely Nelson's out of reach, just...

Riders without SPOT trackers

Just to let Jimmy Finlayson and Michelle Cole & Josh Kench's fans know - they are out there and doing fine. Rather than using a SPOT tracker, they're carrying personal locator beacons.

We'll know when they get to various key locations around the course when they text in (all texts will be forwarded to the Kiwi Brevet twitter feed).

A few Photos from Sunday

Thanks to Jasper for lurking between Wharfdale Track and Sheffield with his camera today.

Jonty at the top of Wards Pass

This is the high-point of the Kiwi Brevet course and it looks HOT. Jonty suffered a bit of heat-stroke in Molesworth Station yesterday, but recovered nicely after a rest in the shade.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Lyall.

04 February 2012

Pics from the road to Taylors Pass

Day 2 Preview

I don't know about y'all, but I'm feeling a little pooped just keeping an eye on the field! What great fun though!

They're about 12 hours in, with:
  • a large group chilling out at the northern end of the Molesworth getting a great opportunity to compare setups and backgrounds
  • a few still desperately trying to clear the Molesworth after underestimating the time they'd take to get through
  • another large group in Hanmer, or about to be,
  • Thomas, who's just left Hanmer,
  • and Ollie, who's almost in Hurunui!
Day 2 will take the front runners through MacDonald Downs, Lees Valley and the Wharfedale, and some will make the assault from the East on Porters Pass. There's a long patch with no services from Hurunui through to Sheffield, but at least there are plenty of opportunities to stock up early in the day.

* * * * *

After the riders turn off SH7 at Hurunui, it will be fast travel on gravel roads through to the only private land section on the course. It's a great section from the riders' point of view, as it connects nicely into Lees Valley.

Simon in MacDonald Downs, 2010

I don't have fond memories of Lees Valley itself- while reasonably flat, the loose and rough road surface was energy sapping.

After overcoming that, the riders will be onto the Wharfedale, and some pretty sweet singletrack through beech forest. This will be the first major test of the various gear stowage systems, but will be really enjoyed by the mountainbikers. There will also be a bit of walking - not much fun with a heavily laden bike - so look to those with too much gear to lose a bit of time here.

Soon after the Wharfedale, the riders will hit the seal again, and apart from some short and fast gravel sections, they'll be on sealed roads all the way across the Southern Alps and down to Jacksons.

Food, and perhaps a bed for the night will await at Sheffield, or a bit further down the road, Springfield. Porters Pass will be an intimidating climb, and one which I predict many will save up for the next day. At the rate Ollie and Thomas are going, I wouldn't be surprised to see one or both of them up high for the night, perhaps even at Arthurs Pass. They'd be mad to keep going - apart from the energy involved, I gather the views are off the hook!


More pics - At top Taylor Pass