Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Pongoroa Pub Ride with the Kiwi Randonneurs

I never intended to do reports on any but major rides and races, but here we are with my fourth account of a Kiwi Randonneur ride and it's my fourth such ride!

Each of these rides have been so different from the other, at least in terms of how I've ridden them.  They seem to have progressed from racing at the rivet (trying to keep up with Iain Clarke on my first ride) to a gentle meander for the second half of the ride today.

Ironically, I hadn't planned to take it easy on the Pongoroa Pub Ride.  With a far slower 400km ride booked for the next Saturday, my plan was to go fairly hard on this one.  There is a great joy and satisfaction in pushing yourself and seeing how fast you can go over such a distance.  So how did I discover the other side of long-distance riding?

The start of this ride was at a very civilized 8:00 am, requiring only a 5:15 am alarm call for the drive up to Ashurst.  Fifteen people had signed up, well up on what I think was only one person on one of the rides a couple of years ago.  The club is really expanding!  One of the great things about the Kiwi Randonneurs is that it caters for all types of people, from racers to tourers.  There were definitely some really fit, competitive-looking people at the start!

Race briefing from Simon

Tour de Ashurst

The ride started with us doing a circuit of the small town of Ashurst, with the group staying together until we crossed the Pohangina River.  We were then on to Saddle Road and starting our ascent of the hill range separating the Wairarapa from the Manawatu.

I was rather surprised at seeing the main group quickly put some distance on me, as I didn't think I was too bad a hill-climber.  However, it was not a worry, as I was not fixated on racing and would sometimes slow down and even stop to take photos.  The 300 metres ascent was made somewhat harder by long stretches of loose gravel, the result of extensive road works under way.  Over-shadowing us were scores of gigantic windmills.  Very impressive!

Initially I had Chris Little a bit ahead of me and was rather tempted to catch up and have a chat before he blasted off into the distance.  I've ridden with him a couple of times before and he's a great guy.  But with my photo taking, I was eventually passed by Ross Cheesman and Craig Lucena.   I was by myself when I crested the hill, but still had Craig in sight and Ross a bit further on.

Roadworks on the hill

Craig Lucena

Looking back over the Manawatu

We were soon through Woodville, riding along the No. 3 Highway, and then crossing the Manawatu  River and onto the Gorge Road.  I caught up with Craig soon after the bridge, as he had stopped to lighten his liquid load.

Craig and I rode together all the way to Pahiatua, where I waited as he got some drink from a dairy.  We then cycled north a bit before turning east, off the No. 2 Higway and onto the Pahiatua-Pongoroa Road.

It was good riding with Craig.  I was surprised to find that he came from Paraparaumu, my home town.  He doesn't do much riding apart from these long ones, so I'll try and encourage him to join me on a couple of Sunday rides with the 60/40 group.  I suspect he was struggling a wee bit on the ride, but you wouldn't know it as he would rush past to take his turn at the front.  A tough dude!

First sight of the Wairarapa

Crossing the Manawatu River.  Craig on the bridge.

Craig Lucena

The Pahiatua-Pongoroa Road is lovely.  The first part of it was flattish and followed up a small river for quite a way.  As I slowed to take a photo, I was suddenly aware of Ross Cheesman behind us.  He must have stopped off at Pahiatua and we'd passed him.  We were then riding across the river, up through the few houses and church that made up the village of Titoki(?), and then up the remaining 200 metres to the summit of the range.

Ross was the stronger of the three of us, but we rode together all the way to Pongoroa.  I really enjoyed riding with the two of them.  There's a great feeling of fellowship undergoing shared labour, especially in such beautiful surroundings, and I have got a huge respect for them both.

On the Pahiatua-Pongoroa Road.  Ross and Crais in the distance.

Ross Cheesman

Nice views

Ross and Craig waiting for me at the summit

We were surprised to find the Pongoroa Pub empty of other cyclists.  Apparently the others had left 15 minutes before our arrival.  They must have been hooning it!

I got my card signed, filled up the water bottles, made some more electrolyte drink, then relaxed into a chair to enjoy what I had ordered – an orange juice, flat white, and pie and chips!  I wasn't really that tired, but it was good to just take it easy and enjoy the moment.

Luuk, Craig L, Craig M, Lis, and Tim

After a while, the rest of the riders arrived – Tim Neal, Luuk van Basten Batenburg, Craig McGregor, and Simon Henderson.  Simon didn't hang around for long as he had some sandwiches with him, so he and Ross left, with Craig and me a bit behind him.  We were heading north, then swinging west again to Dannevirke.

We eventually caught up with Simon and Ross, with Craig then pursuing Ross as I stayed to chat with Simon.  I ended up riding with him the rest of the way.  He's a great guy and it was nice talking with him.  Still post-recovery from a bout of illness, Simon was struggling with the heat on some of the hills, and on one occasion had to stop to allow his body temperature to settle down a bit.  This made it a slow ride, but a ride that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Simon also convinced me that the easier pace was also better for me, as he is an adherer to the Arthur Lydiard school of getting a huge amount of base-level fitness.  I might see how this goes, as I've definitely been taking a while recovering from rides over the last month or so.

Enjoying Dannevirke hospitality with Craig McGregor and Simon Henderson.

Finally we made it to Dannevirke, 150 km into the ride.  Finding a cafe, we settled down to wait for Craig McGregor.  All up, we were there for ages - about an hour and a half all up.  Definitely enough for me to down two milkshakes!

Rather than take the planned route along the No. 2 Highway back to Woodville, we decided to take a longer but quieter detour.  The roads were generally empty, which allowed us to ride three abreast for long periods. It was pleasant, although I was beginning to feel a bit like the kid at the back of the car who always wants to know “How long to go?  How long to go?”

Craig and Simon

A final look back at the Wairarapa

Simon ascending the last (big!) hill

Back to the alien presence

A disappearing sun

At last we were climbing up the big hill over towards the Manawatu.  It was dusk as we came down the other side, with the sun just disappearing over the horizon.  The gravel sections of the road works were definitely treacherous going down, but we made it through in one piece.

It was a very late 8:00 pm by the time we got back to our cars in Ashurst.  After a bit of internal debate as to whether to return quickly home to my lovely wife or join Simon and Craig for some dinner on the way, the call of food and more immediate company won!

Another wonderful day out with the Kiwi Randonneurs!

8:00 pm and another ride done and dusted!

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