Saturday, March 8, 2008

An Average Week

This week was a fairly typical one for late summer - no great prep for the Great Divide Race, but plenty of good solid riding of the 2-3hr variety.

Tuesday John came round early and we drove up the valley to do a road ride round the Akatarawa Ranges. Just as we were hopping on the bikes, he realised I'd forgotton my helmet. After a quick diversion to a friends house, we had the pedals spinning in earnest. This is my favourite road ride - a nice windy road, decent hills, big scenery, and little traffic for much of it. I encouraged John to put the hurt on for the last two k's up the main climb (while I left him to it and cruised at tempo).

Past Paraparaumu we took the back road which is half gravel through native forest and no traffic. Beats me why this sort of smooth gravel road isn't more popular with road riders. Guess they're running the sort of super-narrow tyres that only make them feel fast on smooth asphalt. But a third of New Zealand's public roads are unsealed - that's a lot to be missing out on!

Next up, we're grinding up the Paekakariki Hill Road with it's steep grades, unpredictable winds and spectacular coastal vista. This is a hard way to feel free, but it works. The descent is a mellow gradient and John seems to be cruising. 'Faster, faster!', I yell, and he picks it up to 45 km/hr into the headwind. John's 15 kg of muscle heavier than me, so this is as good as motor-pacing.

Finally we slug it out with the strengthening wind over Haywards Hill to complete the 94 km loop. We're both feeling pretty stuffed, presumably yet to recover from Karapoti.

A couple of days later we start at 7 am again and ride from my place up Hawkins Hill. Once up to 450 vert metres we hide our packs and blast down the Tip Track. OK - 'blast' might be a bit dramatic. The track's still wet from recent heavy rain, so we potter down searching for decent traction. At the bottom we go through the usual ritual of stretches, tyre-pressure adjustment, shedding extraneous layers of clothing and watering the shrubbery - anything to postpone the pain of the return journey.

Last summer the Tip Track and my middle chainring came to terms with each other and I cracked 20 minutes for this 400 m climb. No such joy this time. It's a granny ring sting lasting just over 22 minutes. John's a little slower than a month ago. 'The tracks a bit soft'. 'Yeah, and a little slick in places'. 'Still a bit tired from Tuesday's ride'. 'And I think the air temperature is too low for a fast time'. 'Yeah'.

We were running out of time to do another big climb, so settled for a couple of 500m sprints on the road. I was really impressed with how the Stans Crow tyre rolls on the seal. Given it's minimal tread, that's to be expected. But then I realise it had clawed it's way up the Tip Track without slipping once. Nice.

The third ride of the week was practice for next weekends Cyclic Saga - a two day MTB rogaine. John and I will be teaming up again, so we headed out to the Hutt Valley and set off in opposite directions with marker pens and 1:50,000 topomaps on our handlebar-mounted mapboards. I spent an hour and a half in the Eastern Hutt Hills tying flags to various spots and marking the location on the map. At the same time John was doing likewise in the Belmont Regional Park to the west. At half-time we swapped maps and headed off to collect each others markers. All good fun (and more than enough to justify a visit to the local bakery...mmm).

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