Well it’s the night before and although not the perfect build up or taper, it is what it is. I will find out what it feels like starting at 6 tomorrow morning.
ok, a couple of days later and it’s all fresh in the mind. I waited in the dark for 1/2 an hour or so, all the toilets were of course locked so that option to kill time was lost. Peter (Cole) and Shaun (Batty) rocked up so it wasn’t going to be a lonely 400 at least at first.
We left at 6am on the dot and 10 seconds in, it was raining, so that was a good start. However it didn’t last long and the company was amusing, Peter was strong and Shaun, young and strong. Oh well, hang on and do your share I thought, see what happens. Within 10 minutes my lower back started aching so that was a little stressful, a quick stop about an hour or so in to divest ourselves of jackets etc.
The sun was out now and there was a fair bit of banter along with a lot of comments on how picturesque it was from Peter. A quick blat through Whangerei about 60k in and we were off to Twin Bridges, unfortunately Shaun had a puncture so they both stopped. I carried on as I wasn’t feeling great and was wanting to just putter along at my own pace for a while. Of course the weather chose this moment to hose down! With a sore back, soaking and only 80 or so k’s into the ride this was not a happy moment for me, strangely, I got my own puncture and fixing it was a nice break. Just as I got going again the boys appeared on the horizon so we cruised off to Kaikohe together. They were keen on Maccas but my stomach craved real food so I stopped at the bakery however a matter of moments later they were back as Maccas had proved too elusive. Got the card signed, refuelled, re watered and we were away again,145k.
Shaun jumped on the front downhill but into a strong headwind but his pace was too much for me after 20 or so k, I pulled over and said as much to Peter so we let him go and we cruised on at a more sedate pace. He was waiting just after Taheke so we were all together again but the Waima hill split us again as I quietly rode up it but opened a bit of a gap which strangely didn’t get closed down. I was reorganising myself in Opononi when Peter arrived, we reloaded at the 4 Square shop and Peter told me not to wait, still no sign of Shaun so maybe another puncture?200k.
The climb out of Omapere was nasty as were the rolling hills before the Waipua Forest however the climb I had been dreading into the forest was just a nice steady one and quite enjoyable if a bit long. Stopped for a selfie at the top and then enjoyed the downhill and even most of the following uphill all the time expecting the other 2 to come rolling by. Knowing there was a fast open descent I stopped, had a feed and put on my jacket and lights as it was getting darker. Still no sign of the guys?? It’s a fast downhill and chilly but at least the headwind is finally a side wind, oh and by the way, the Dargaville flats are not flat!
Moment 2 in the ‘why am I doing this’ is when the back wheel has a spoke break, and on Zipps, that’s often terminal. Luckily I’d had them rebuilt by a local wheel guy and they kept enough shape with the brakes released to keep going. With a bit of good luck with the wheel(sort of) the rain decided to return. Oh well, Dargaville was coming up and even I was looking forward to Maccas. I thought I’d wait for the boys there as I knew they were into plastic food and good toilets. So I rode through a damp Dargaville and stopped at yet another 4 Square for fluids ! No Maccas in town so that plan was stuffed, I threw coke in one bottle grabbed my GUs and headed out. 280k.
OMG it was flat, of course that didn’t last, a left turn and onto a gravel road. Hang on, a broken wheel,300k in, dark, and we are on gravel? Oh well, it wasn’t bad gravel. It was a nice scenic if dark side trip. So back on the flat road I’m doing a lot of standing on the downhills by now, 50% arse 50% back. Eventually, as we are heading in the wrong direction, we turn left up a nice steep hill. By halfway I realise the brakes are rubbing pretty badly on the wheel making it seriously tough to climb so I stop and unwind the cable. Jump back on and nope, still bad, so I pull all my gear out and unbolt the brakes completely. That’ll do it….no…shit, it’s rubbing on the frame. Ok, tough it out, there is a secret checkpoint somewhere between 300 & 350k, I’ll find out if there are many more big hills because I can’t make it up many more like that and it gets worse. A major road rebuilding job with massive gravel and nasty surface and lots of it! Oh well!
By this stage if the secret control had been there I might have bailed but it was nowhere to be seen so on I went, and a lovely night with rolling hills, gentle slopes and a whole bunch of possums trying to commit suicide under my wheels. Cold and foggy but a lovely sky, another gravel section although only light gravel, only front brakes on the downhills was exciting at times. An easy run into Whangerei over familiar roads saw the end with my daughter picking up after my wife had done drop off duties. Very cool to see her! A text to Peter saw him still 15k away so we headed off. A pity not to be able to relive the high points with the other riders and I still don’t know exactly what happened but it will all come out in the wash I’m sure. It’s now Tuesday and the bodies ok, the arse is getting there and I’m looking at new adventures so I obviously learned nothing!!!! Lol.