I’m going to take it easy, today!
Day 3 & 4 of the 5 Passes Tour 2019
Amongst our team, it became a joke, with every morning me announcing that “I’m going to take it easy today” and ” I wouldn’t go on the front”. Yet, every morning I found myself in exactly that position. It wasn’t out of needing my ego stroked, but more that I needed to warm my legs up, and that my tempo just happened to be on the front. Although, it’s fricking good when your ego is stroked.
Day 3 was from Greymouth to Arthur’s Pass Village. A relatively short stage, just 100km. That ‘just 100km’ was also supposed to include Arthur’s Pass climb. A brutal 3km section, 3km from Otira (a very peculiar place) to the top. With an average gradient of 12%, and reaching 22% in places, this was a serious climb. But the descent once over, well, that was amazing.
The first part of the day included a neutralised sector of roughly 23km, once past all of the road works. Then there was an absolute smashfest for the next 40km. There wasn’t too much uphill, but what there was broke the group. I can’t even recall any of the scenery. But what I can recall is a bridge with stupid fucking plastic judder bars on entry and exit. These bars coupled with group C meeting group D made for an exciting time. Fortunately, I was well-positioned, and I made the split. Other than that, the next stop was Otira.
The organisers had to cancel the Arthur’s Pass section. It was just too hard. The gradient, the road works, single lane, and trucks, made it impossible. If one rider had stopped and had a truck behind them, the driver had to make a choice. It was either run the rider off of the road or stop. Stopping on the pass would then need a tow truck to get the truck off of the pass. A brave, and correct decision was made. The stage was cancelled.
But that didn’t end the fun. Some of the riders were allowed to ride down from the top. The organisers and volunteers that drove riders up the hill graciously dropped off those riders that wanted to ride down. The volunteers were amazing, not just on this day, but the whole tour. They simply couldn’t do enough for you.
Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch, 135km and mostly downhill. It was neutral for the first 20km (more roadworks), then a timed 30km, neutral for 4km, and then 20km timed. This would be the final timed sector. The last 25km of the event was a TTT. It was a fun day.
We all got up for breakfast. Sleep deprivation was clearly showing. Some of us has slept in the YHA. 8 men to a dorm. 8 men over 50, or thereabouts, with large prostates and small bladders, doesn’t make for comfortable sleeping. Add to this, 8 men snoring, or at least 50% were. Holy shit, I was knackered.
After breakfast we all got ready. The morning was fricking freezing, but we knew that it’d soon warm-up, and it did just that. As soon as we descended into the valley, the temperature went up 10º. Time to remove our jackets. The volunteers took them from us. Yet more great service.
The first real test of the day was climbing Craigieburn. A steep little bastard. Up until that point, this ride had been stunningly beautiful. Why do climbs always have to ruin things? Like Arthur’s Pass, the descent was majestic.
We hung around the rest area for freshly cooked pancakes, bacon, and banana. Was I in heaven. No, that was last night. The crew had cooked us the best whitebait fritters known to man. They were simply stunning. Many thanks.
Once we’d all eaten it was onto the final timed stage. A drop downhill, then full gas until we reached the top of Porter’s Pass. Holy shit, this was the hardest I’d ever ridden a bike. You know when you get dropped and you can see the bunch less than 50 metres ahead. Well, that was me. I tried, honestly I did.
I saw the main bunch splinter. Riders were dropping off of the back. Just ahead I could now see 3 riders unable to hang on. If only I could bridge the gap. Well, it took me about 15 minutes of trying. Now there were only 2 other riders. They’d dropped one. I bridged to them, except, and it’s a big exception, they thought I was still the 3rd rider. They automatically thought I’d roll through for my turn. Holy fuck, I was knackered.
They dropped me, again, and again. Each time I managed to crawl my way back. On the 3rd attempt they realised I wasn’t the other rider, but fortunately this time I could contribute. I was in hell. Within 24 hours I’d experienced both places.
The finish line was approaching. Myself, Julia, and Per were rolling nicely. That was until the tandem went by. Per jumped into the slipstream. The three of them were off like a rocket. I was spent. Julia then dropped me. The finish line was just up ahead. The end was nigh.
Once finished, it was a 20km downhill roll into Springfield for lunch. A much-welcomed break. Team GLCC only had a TTT to complete, and they’d have completed their first 5 Passes Tour. Bravo to all riders.
The TTT went as expected. We cruised and had fun. We put everything we had learned from Paul Odlin, into practice. The TTT was enjoyable. Especially enjoyable when sitting on the back for 20km. A big thanks to Robyn, Jayne, Martyn, and Kieran (now spelt Kyran). Everyone needs a Y in their name!
A big thanks to all of the other teams, you made it fun, and GLCC want to come back. This was the best multi-staged event that I’d ridden in. Thanks to Sheree for all of your hard work. Thanks to all of the fantastic volunteers. You were amazing. A big thanks to anyone that we’ve missed.