Saturday, 6 February 2010

Chasing the Lanterne Rogue – The Ruapehu Cycle Classic 2010

After a gorgeous night sky sleeping under the stars near Ohakune I was amped up for the Ruapehu Classic. It was a cracker of day. My only concern was the potential for a long “time-trial” with limited opportunities for drafting with a smallish field. In the end it was an unusual and eventful day for me out on the course.

Not far out of the start in Ohakune, I found myself in a small group of 6-8 riders. Regardless of jittery beginnings with different approaches to operating as a bunch we were soon all taking our leads and then peeling off for a rest at the back of the group. My legs felt good and we were travelling well along the Desert Road with views of Mt Ruapehu dominating the landscape.

BANG!!! It sure did sound like a firearm, but no, it was not from the live firing military site beside us. That was my back tyre. So loud and echoey, my initial reaction was not ohno, I have a puncture but do I still have a tyre to continue on? SIGH!
Ride Data:
Distance: 143km* 6,214 Calories*
Elevation: Ascent: 1715m* Descent: 1714m*
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: Ohuakune, NZ 6 February 2010
* Some missing data due to short ride with SAG etc.
Surveying the damage, the bead that holds the tyre to the rim was, well, holding onto the rim. However, the bursting explosion, (or in this volcanic area should I say eruption?) of my inner tube had pushed the a large section of tyre away from the bead. Hence, the bead was holding onto the rim, but the tyre was not holding onto the bead :(.

Conventional wisdom suggests that a tube failure of this nature occurs when the inner-tube is not correctly located within the tyre walls, and the explosion occurs from part of the tube being exploded outside the tyre wall or from pressure from the tyre bead. With some 1000km since my previous puncture, including events over the previous three weekends of 150km, 110km and 152km without incident it is hard to understand how this could have been.

[[I would have an impressive photo of the tyre to go here if I had remembered to collect it from SAG after the event]]

With no sign of the SAG Wagon or any mechanical support I pursued the futile endeavour of replacing the inner-tube and attempting to mount the tyre. Nope. I just proved it was broken like I already knew! About 40 minutes later the St John Ambulance came by. The had lots of bandages but no tyres and told me that the SAG Wagon was still a further 20 minutes behind. The SAG Wagon arrived 58 minutes after my tyre went BANG!. Unfortunately no spare tyres were on offer so I reluctantly loaded my bicycle into the van after a mere of 31km of riding. It seemed all over for me today.

Travelling in the SAG Wagon (well van actually) we followed and accounted for the last few riders in the event as we travelled up and down this section of the Desert Road a few times before following them into the first relay changeover point at Tukino. While I was shaking my head, musing about only riding 31km and quite possibly sulking in disappointment, I was offered the use of one of the relay riders bikes. The sizing didn’t look too good for me and I negotiated to borrow a tyre. Thankyou #359! The only condition was that I put it back on her bike afterwards :). After swapping the tyres over and getting my things back together I was soon back on the course, but being substantially behind last place I was now the new lanterne rouge. It would be a handicap race now and a matter of how many places I good make up.

Excited to back on the road after a two hour delay I was travelling well along the Desert Road as the dominant views moved from Mt Ruapehu to Mt Ngauruhoe considering the unavailability of any other riders to draft. Following the twists and turns through the Three Sisters I had to wait about five minutes for the oncoming traffic before I was able to make my way through the road works. Waiting with a rider here, once we were through I lost the title of lanterne rouge.

Soon through to Rangipo, it was time for what I believe is the worst climb of this route up past Ketetahi. It is not steep, but it does keep coming and the road surface is not particularly smooth with very large stones used in the chipseal here. I must have been doing okay as I picked up another 3 or  4 places on the way over this hill.

By the time I was on the set of hills that make the climb past Mangatapopo, I was certainly slowing. I think this was some combination of some over enthusiasm as I rejoined the event, not seeing any riders ahead of me to aim for and well, far enough ahead of the SAG Wagon now to not get caught slacking :>. In fact it wasn’t until about 9km to go that I picked up a further two places. I finished with another ride in sight sight that I was unable to reel in, even with a big sprint at the line. The event timing had my finishing time as 7h38m40s, which didn’t seem too bad with a two hour delay and a lot of riding by myself.

I had a lot of fun today. Certainly the day did not unfold how I expected, and paying for new parts is never fun. Beautiful weather and a scenic course. Back again next year for hopefully a less eventful ride.

The Ruapehu Classic takes place over a beautifully scenic course. I think that riding across the Desert Road, where many drivers often appear to think that speed limits do not apply puts many cyclists off entering this event. With a 7am start, and blowouts excepted leaving the Desert Road by 10am doesn’t make this as much of a problem as is perceived due the distance from here to the major cities.

A big thanks to the people in the SAG for rescuing me, sorry forgotten your names now, and to #359 for loaning me the tyre that enabled me to make it through to the finish. Hope you are enjoying the sunglasses that you won today.

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