Sunday, 28 March 2010

The Forrest Graperide 2010

After last year’s Graperide I was eager to improve on my time. After the previous weekend’s Kapiti Cycle Challenge I was confident of smashing last years 3h27m25s. In fact, I felt like I could give the 3 hour mark a good nudge. 
Ride Data:
Distance: 100.04km 5,077 Calories
Time: 3:03:28 32.7km/h
Elevation: Ascent: 689m Descent: 689m
Ride Data: Garmin Connect Player
Location: Renwick, NZ 27 March 2010

With the Bluebridge on as sponsors for the ride this year, the discounts for the weekend ferry sailings made it an economical jaunt over to the South Island. The ferry was chocker with cars carrying as many cycles as they could possibly manage. Surprisingly, I was the only person to cycle off the ferry in Picton – just a short 37km ride to Renwick.

Having entered the Graperide a few months earlier, at a time when I had much less fitness I had entered myself in the under 3:30 group (2000 series numbers) rather than the under 3 hour group (1000 series numbers). In hope of leaving with the 1000 series numbers to try and get a bunch riding at good speed, II arrived at the start early and lined up in the start area near the back of the 1000 series numbers. Some of the event marshals observing y 2000 series race number insisted that I drop back to start with the under 3:30 group. There was no convincing them to allow me and some other riders from the Wellington based training group Gear Shifters to advance to the faster starting group :(.

Somewhere between being sent back to the 3:30 group at which we were at the “front” of and finally starting a couple of hundred other 3:30 group riders managed to utilise the tandems starting area and start ahead of us. With a minute or two between each starting bunch of up to 100 riders I eventually left the start line 14 minutes behind the front of the 1000 series (or under 3 hour group).

Keen to break 3 hours, riding out of Renwick I put on as much gas I could to try and both advance to stronger riders and pull some stronger riders with me that might help establish a speedy bunch to aid this cause. With my ticker pumping at 199bpm, a tad over my theoretical maximum heartrate. Phew, no cadiac arrest :D.

Heading toward Picton there were about six of us pulling a large pack. Once hitting the only real hill of the ride, up Queen Charlotte Drive the pack dissipated behind us. Descending back to sea level we were now riding past riders that had predominantly 1000-series (sub-3hr) numbers on their backs that had obviously fallen off the back of their groups in front. The twelve of so of us left from the large pack cycled together as far as Linkwater. I had been feeling far stronger than I have for the past year or two and had done a fair amount of leading. Possibly a little too much? But it feels good to set the pace rather than trying to hold on to the back of a bunch! Near Linkwater, as I rehydrated at the back of the group I missed a crucial break that halved it’s size. With a moderate headwind, I lacked the enthusiasm to jump and chase them. I rode more restfully on the way through to the small climb at Havelock.

At Havelock I got onto the back of a well paced group and found my “second-wind” with the increasing pace. At about 5km to go the strongest rider in the group was off into a sprint for the line. I knew I didn’t have that distance of a sprint in me and hung with the group until we crossed the bridge over the Wairau River and 2km to go. As I increased my pace I had a few riders in my sights as I entered the windy driveway into Forrest Estate where I picked a couple more places from riders with most their energy already spent. No sign of the guy who had left our bunch in his wake a few km down the road though.

On net time I finished in 3h3m28s, a little outside the 3 hour target I had set myself. As convinced I am that I would have ridden a sub-3 if I had started sooner, I can’t be too disappointed after taking almost 24 minutes off my time from last years Graperide!!! I am determined to do a sub-3 next year and I’ll be sure to start with a 1000 series number on my back.

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