Saturday, 16 January 2010

Round the Mountain against a Southerly Draft

The Round the Mountain is a 150km recreational event around Mt Taranaki. It also offers relay, and ‘bone collector’ events for teams of riders that do not wish to ride the 150km on the roads around Mt Taranaki. With Mt Taranaki shy and hiding behind the clouds all day “Round the Cloud” may have been more applicable.

Camping at the sheltered Lucy’s Gully the night before, a balmy 28degC in my tent I had no idea of the strength of the southerly gales until I got out of the car at the start at the Pukekura Park raceway.
Ride Data:
Distance: 149km 6,396 Calories
Time: 6:11:22 24.1 km/h
Elevation: Ascent: 1539m Descent: 1530m
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: New Plymouth, NZ 16 January 2010

Although I have ridden in plenty of strong winds before (it comes with living in Wellington). What was new to me was how persistent they were. In Wellington it is very hilly and you fight into the breeze and find a cutting, gully or bay for an ever so slight breather before the wind hits you again. The Taranaki is largely flat, dairy farmed plains and aside from the significant bump of Mt Taranaki in the middle is relatively flat. This leaves absolutely nowhere to hide to get a brief respite from the gales.

Once away from the lee of Mt Taranaki, the southerly hit somewhere near Okato, it was all gale-force head and cross winds from here all the way through to Eltham. Fortunately I found myself in a good sized bunch climbing up from Opanake but unfortunately it lost its form after relay riders with fresh legs joined at Te Kiri. I was relieved when we were through to Kaponga but had forgotten it was still a good 15km to Eltham and the alleged tailwind. Heading toward Eltham I was starting to wonder if I would make the finish in under seven hours! Something I never contemplated prior to the event!
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Once in Eltham, with an average speed a mere 21.4km/h the going certainly did get easier. There was a tailwind this time and not that all too frequent riding in a circle with a headwind the whole way. This was a very good thing!

From Stratford to Inglewood was a gentle downhill with a gale-force tailwind. A very sweetride often at over 60km/h, even after being tired from the first 100km/h of headwinds! For some reason the area between Inglewood and Egmont Village was slow going before picking up the pace again.

The 50km of tailwind was a fantastic way to finish the ride after questioning myself why I do this most weekends when I was riding into the gales for near 100km! Phew! Made it in a 6h11m.