Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Riding the Eketahuna Dash with Iain Clarke

This is a ride report I wrote for the Kapiti Cycle Club about a great ride I did with my friend Iain Clarke.


Normally I'd put this up on Facebook but, civilized man that he is, Iain Clarke is a stranger to that vice.  We both had a great ride on Saturday with the Kiwi Randonneurs (  It was a 205km route from Martinborough to Eketahuna and back again, taking the back roads and not retracing any of our steps.

Iain, the bastard, wanted to keep up a good fast pace and I was the poor sucker that was to accompany him.

We started at 7 o'clock on what was a pretty chilly morning but with 32 degrees forecast for the day.  Our pace over the 50km to Masterton was fast but unhurried, following some really picturesque rural roads on what was starting out as a beautiful, clear day.  Five of us were together just before Masterton, but after that our ways parted.  Iain was not going to wait for anyone, as he was well set on his mission of grinding Andrew into the ground.

From Martinborough to Masterton - Iain, Myles and Jay
The 45 km ride from Masterton to Alfredton was great.  Really beautiful scenery and a wonderful riding road. It's a gradual up-hill most of the way and was into a slight northerly.  My devilish mate had the intention of keeping the speed at 30 kph for as much of the road as he could.  We kept up a good pace all the way to Alfredton School.  I think that we were both feeling it, especially towards the end, but we still kept up a witty and easy conversation, albeit with mine being somewhat forced towards the end.

(As an aside, I was amazed when Iain mentioned riding the 300km Tararua block with Mark Donald and Mike Proudfoot and Mark keeping the clock at 40kph up-hill and into the wind for hours.  Perhaps not surprising really given his great accomplishments!  Something I can only dream about!)

Between Alfredtown and Eketahuna were three juicy hills and this was where my pace really slipped off.  After being polite for some brief moments, Iain would get bored with my slow progress and move quickly and easily ahead of me, meeting me at the top of each hill for the sole purpose of humiliating me on the next one.

Thank God, we eventually made it to Eketahuna, the 110km mark and slightly over half way. We stopped at the shop to buy some water and refreshments and get our brevet card signed.  As we were about to leave, four other riders arrived (Craig, Simon, Jay and Myles).  All of us were feeling the heat.  The sun was definitely drilling down, even though the time was just a bit past 11 o'clock.

Restocking at Eketahuna
It should be easier from now on, as the remainder of the ride would be more down than up and we would have a northerly at our back.  Indeed it was easier, except I hadn't reckoned on one thing - that bastard bouncing bunny of fitness and wit I was riding with.  "You're just saving it for near the end, when you'll speed ahead for line honours!"  "Your long-term endurance is going to kick in soon!"  Iain just looked so fresh and good-humoured, whereas my witty repartee had well and truly dried up and all I could manage to respond with were grunts.

The route took us along a few side roads west of Eketahuna (presumably to take the ride up to over 200km) before crossing SH2 and onto Opaki-Kaipororo Road, a lovely route that took us most of the way back to Masterton.  Wonderful riding here that I would recommend to anyone.

The road eventually spilled onto SH2 again for the 7km back into Masterton.  We stopped off at a dairy to get the brevet card signed again and enjoy some more refreshments.  My apple juice was quickly gulped down and, as we began to get ready to go, our four pursuers wheeled in.  I know that Iain was gunning for a good average speed, but the route on the back roads back to Martinborough was a bit tricky and I was worried about taking the wrong road.  This shouldn't be any problem for tough novice randonneurs like ourselves, but this particular randonneur had recently developed an adversion to even the thought of spending more time on the road trying to make his way back to the correct route.  Thank goodness, Iain agreed to my suggestion that we go with the other four, as two of them had a good knowledge of the route and their speed seemed similar to ours.

Masterton and only 45 km to go - Jay, Myles, Simon, Craig and me

So, whew, more time for rest!  When I saw our new companions hoeing into dripping double-decker icecreams, I just had to join them.  "Good way to cool down inside", said Simon, and I couldn't think of a better excuse.  The sun was ferocious.  You could feel it's strength just by moving your arm back and forth between shade and sun.

Eventually, we were off.  No moaning or anything, except what was echoing and booming within the confines of my skull.

Initially the pace was somewhat slowish and I felt worried about Iain's goal for the ride.  We crossed the river and turned left into a brisk headwind.  I was pleased that Iain was at the front, as it would hopefully sap his energy and stop his persecution of one Andrew Morrison.  I was very happy sitting behind him and Simon.  However, after a while, Simon sensibly thought it was time that someone else started pulling their weight.  "About time you did some work", said Iain, wheeling behind me and leaving me all by myself in the front.  Prick!

It was definitely tough at the front and I wondered how long I could keep it up.  After having his fun, the hilarious bundle of satanic joy that was my riding buddy moved up beside me and we continued on side by side.  Iain was definitely on a mission.  His aim was an average for the ride of 27 kph or higher and we were close to that but not quite there.  We set a pretty good pace, or rather Iain did, with me struggling to maintain my place at his side.  We dropped the others a few times, but they managed to get back behind us.  Eventually, after a slightly larger rise, Craig came charging down the other side like a man on a mission.  "Sorry Andrew, I can't let this go", said my companion and ... my now "ex" companion ... sped after Craig.

Iain caught up with Craig fairly easily, pausing no doubt to chat nonchalantly with him, put him off his guard and make him think that he's a really nice guy, before crucifying the unsuspecting man by leaving a disappearing trail of dust into the sunset.

As an aside, I should add that racing and tactics are not a randonneuring thing.  It's all about self sufficiency and the sheer hell of enjoying the wonder of the open road for hours and hours and hours ... and days and days.  We don't want any contagion from the petty vanities and low morality of road racers and road racer wannabies.  I say "we" because, even though I've only done this one randonneur ride, I plan to do a lot more this year.  So I want to distance myself from the likes of Iain and his ways. The devil lives inside that man.  And me?  I just don't know what came over me.

So, the bastard had taken off, but I was in the hunt for Craig and I definitely didn't want anyone to catch up with me.  I think it was about 15km to  Martinborough and I would have loved to have just stopped or, at the very least, eased up the pace.  But a devil's apprentice has to do what a devil's apprentice has to do.  So with one eye to the front, to see Craig tantalizing close but not close enough, and the other eye to the back, to find the other three remaining safely out of sight, I graunched (made up word but sounds just right!) those final kilometers out.

At last, there was Martinborough and there was Iain, outside the petrol station with an icecream in his hand.  I congratulated him as I stumbled into the station, grabbed an icecream myself and got my brevet card signed.  I could hardly talk as I came outside to join him and clumped around in my cycle shoes, trying to stretch my legs which were feeling stiff and sore.

Iain - 205 km done and dusted and still smiling
The others had passed without seeing us as I was getting through that icecream so, when I'd finished, we went and joined them.  Hands were shaken all around.  After putting our bikes away, Iain and I met our riding companions in the pleasant coolness of the shade outside the pub.  With beer in hand and venison burger ordered, it was an absolute pleasure to sit down with my friends.  A while later, we were joined by four more riders.  What a great bunch of guys these randonneurs are!  It was sheer joy sitting there, sipping my beer, and being part of it all.  The only thing marring it was feeling well and truly bombed out and blown apart by the ride.  But that's often how you want to finish a ride isn't it ... or at least how Iain wants me to finish a ride!

Let me end by thanking my good friend for a great ride. It was wonderful riding with him.  Iain, good friend that he is, has said that I have to manage three 300km rides with him without exhausting myself before he even considers crewing for me should I attempt 8 laps of Taupo.  I agreed with him and, stupid prick that I am, am actually looking forward to them.

Oh yes, and Iain did get his 27 kph, and some more too!

Celebratory drinks!

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