The event briefing over quite early we had a lot of time to kill before the ten o’clock start. Never really one keen to stand around and talk about bikes and compare set-ups, there was plenty of time to find a supermarket and get a second breakfast (the large one provided by my exceptional hosts, Shirley and Doug, had somehow faded from my stomach already) and do a little stretching. Eventually it was time to assemble.
Seymour Square – the night before, prior to be filled with bikepackers. No Cycling signs – what No Cycling signs?
We set off in a light drizzle that persisted for hours, but was never really that bad. After a bit of road west out of Blenheim, we crossed to the north bank of the Wairau and followed it upstream on a gravel road through a big forestry block. A few days later and we would not have made it through here as the forest caught fire and a lot of land was burnt through. The pace was pretty quick in the bunch of about a hundred (I think the split was about 70% 1150 km Brevet, 30% 750 km Brevette), much quicker than I would normally ride. Following a big wide river valley up, it was generally gently climbing up with the the odd steeper up or down.
It was all very pleasant with plenty of people to talk to, I tended not to stop at all – which was not a great idea. Crossing back over the river we had a short stretch of highway into a nasty headwind before turning south into the Rainbow Valley. This was more gravel road gently (mostly) going up the valley – it was grand & absolutely spectacular as the mountains got bigger and slowly closed in. The light rain stopped and I paid my two dollar toll to get past the gatekeeper in plenty of time. I started to feel a little peaky at this time, but took it slowly & kept going.
As we climbed to the saddle before descending to Sedgemere Shelter, I started to feel a bit better. As it was still well early, I couldn’t bring myself to stop after my planned 150 km for the day (doing around 150 km per day should get me back by Saturday afternoon – although I’d only ever ridden that far in a day once, I thought that was achievable over ten to twelve hours). So with a bit of food on board I carried on up to Island Saddle, the highest point on the course at a shade over 1350 m. By this time I was riding with Oliver, a cycle tourist from Somerset (of all places) and Dean from Dunedin. I did it pretty tough on the climb up to the saddle, but eventually we were there and it was a nice blast down the hill – we turned off route for a kilometre and all feeling pretty tired camped at Lake Tennyson the night.
I think I overdid it a bit that day with the initial pace, not eating & drinking enough on a long & hotter-than-it-seemed day and not stopping enough (only twenty minutes stopped in almost ten hours). I was exhausted and dehydrated to the extent that I couldn’t even keep a few mouthful of water down at one stage. Eventually I managed to eat about a quarter of the rather tasty freeze-dried Thai chicken stirfry I’d brought along before collapsing into bed for a night of sleep broken by some rain and some strong gusts of wind roaring off the lake. That’ll teach me for not sticking to my rather conservative plan.