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!