Emma, the kids and I headed down to Blenheim in the weekend to watch the start of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet. For the next eight days (four and a bit for some), 65 cyclists and a wide range of bikes will attempt to cover over 1100kms. Race organiser Simon Kennett has picked a pretty epic route with more off-road than road and over 12900m of climbing.
I followed the race for the first day and the general order has stayed pretty much the same (you can follow it live on here via GPS trackers) Andy Reid set a blistering pace off the bat and when they passed Whites Bay (home of some of the best singletrack in the South Island) Andy, Thomas Lindup and Ollie Whalley all had a good gap on the field.
After shifting our camp to Canvastown (by the end of the South Island's best piece of singletrack, the Wakamarina) I left Emma and the kids and hightailed it to Pelorus Bridge to try to beat the leaders to the top of the Mangatapu Saddle. Pulling out of Canvastown I passed Ollie and Andy, a quick stop at the Pelorus bridge shops meant a ten minute delay, but surely I was still in front of them. I cruised up Mangatapu Rd and parked just before the bottom of the climb, positive I'd put a large enough gap between Andy and Ollie.
Half way up the Mangatapu track comfortably in my 32t ring I heard a noise. Dammit. Andy on his cycle-cross bike just plain whizzed pass. Five minutes later Ollie followed. Determined to reach the top before the next rider I pinned it. For some bizarre reason it seemed shorter than the last time I rode it and actually not that bad. Although you can bet your bottom dollar an 800m climb was the last thing you wanted at the end of a 35+degree day, after over 150km of riding.
Andy and Ollie's gap was impressive with the next rider not cresting (albeit walking) the summit until at least a half an hour after I reached it and over an hour behind Andy and Ollie. A succession of riders followed, John Randal, Lisa Savage, Tony Bateup and Simon Kennett were among them. Without lights and with a 800m descent ahead of me I decided, with the sun rapidly setting, it was time to get down.
I came across a tonne of riders on my descent, some just under the summit like Chris Burr and Brenda Clapp and some just before the hurt begins Like Ground Effect's Guy Wynn-Williams and Laurence Mote. Jonty and the Revolution boys were just getting started and at 9:30pm a bunch were crossing the bridge before the the bottom of the climb.