Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Kiwi Brevet 2014 Event Report

Friday came around all to quick … the gear had been sorted, the car loaded, off to work. Fortunately it was a busy day and went quickly. Andre turned up we put his bike on the car and gear in, we scootored around to pick up Hamish  … we were on our way, dinner in Kaikoura and we were soon in Blenhiem meeting Scott, Jo and Hana … at the Pub!

Back at the campground a tension was building as bags were packed up and weighed and strapped on to the bikes. My gear was 8.4 kgs, my bike was 10.3 kgs and me at 82 kgs a gross vehicle weight 100.7 kgs plus drinks …

The event’s briefing was at 10 am and the start was midday, so allowed for a breakfast prior and post briefing and for nerves to build … it soon was becoming real … 1100 kilometres were ahead of me … doubt, excitement mingled freely … this was going to be one hell of an adventure!

My goals were 1. to finish, 2. to finish in under 7 days would be excellent, 3. to finish in under 8 days would be ok 

Day One – Blenhiem to Pelorus

The clock tower in Seymour Square chimed noon we were off, led out of town on a bike path and back roads heading towards Port Underwood as a group busy chatting, catching up with old friends, soon became serious as soon as we hit the hills and the group broke up very quickly. The seal became gravel, the heat rose, the hills seemed never ending especially the last one which headed over to Waikawa the summit finally arrived and the descent was welcomed!  The road led around to Picton with a quick stop to stock up on food for breakfast and some more drink and quickly on to the scenic Queen Charlotte Sound road, the flats hit and down I went on the aerobars time to make up on my lack of climbing ability. Havlock rolled around and the call for dinner was made, the first of many toasted sandwiches and milkshakes.

Deciding when to eat was often an important in terms of timing, I knew that the Café at Pelorus was to close at 7 and I wasn’t sure if I would get there on time, this became important more later in the week.

I moved on to Pelorus camp arriving at seven, making the call to camp rather than climb the Mangatapu track and descend it in the dark, erring on the side of conservatism.
I set my bivy up and an hour later was joined by Scott Andrews from Lower Hutt

123 kilometres, 6 hours 28 minutes ride time, 1882 metres ascent

Day Two – Pelorus to Lake Rotoroa

Woken by the morning chorus, I counted seven different bird songs, I laid there and ate my can of creamed riced, packed up and headed off, there had been a few riders go past before me, so tootling off up the valley back on gravel road until the start of the Mangatapu track (last time I rode this was twenty years ago). It is still a loooonnnng climb! Surprise Surprise who do I meet at the top ... Jo and Hana ... they had snuck past early morning after camping at Pelorus as well.

 We descended into Nelson heading straight to Lambrettas for breakfast, the vaccumm was turned on and the plate of food disappeared very quickly, a wee detour to Kathmandu to replace the back light I had lost. We were soon meandering our way along the new bike path to Wakefield, the temperture was rising so the call for an ice cream stop was made, sitting under the tree chatting with other riders. 

There was still along way to go so I headed off up through Golden Downs to St Arnaud with temperture's into the thirties and climbing all the way it was a relief to get there, more toasted sandwiches and a milkshake was ordered and devoured.

Breakfast was purchased and I pushed on down the Buller Valley and all too soon the turn off for the Howard Valley appeared and the climbing started again up and over the Porika Saddle, it was a long climb but a short and steep descent down to Lake Rotoroa by this stage it was just after eight in the evening, so called it a day. An hour or so later Jo and Hana roll in after descending the track in the dark!
 169 Kilometres, 11 hours 17 minutes riding time, 2862 metres ascent

Day Three – Lake Rotorua to Reefton

Lake Rotoroa has it's own special wake up call - sandflys! Which meant for an quick get get away after another can of creamed rice, off up over the Braeburn into the Tutaki Valley down the Mangles to Murchison, this was a second home for me for years, breakfast was the main goal of being in town, the BIG breakfast with ALL extras was ordered and woofed down.

I had been riding with Jo and Hana for most of yesterday and for all of today, one of my concerns was that I could blow myself up and not finish, strategically riding with them was helping me pace myself. Not only that, they are great company!

I had been looking forward to this next leg as it followed one of my favourite rivers in the country, the Matakitaki. We stopped at the Glenroy to fill our bottles and spot trout in the river ... as you do!

Over the beautiful Maruia Saddle and along to Reids Store, more food, more drink, and on our way to Springs Junction and milkshake ... there's a pattern emerging here ... One more hill for the day Rahu Saddle and then 40 kms down hill to Reefton I was so looking forward to this but for a headwind which took the edge of the descent and made you work for the last 15 kms!

Arriving in town I had made the decision that a good nights sleep, shower and a descent feed would pay dividends over the next couple of days. While purchasing enough food supplies for the next couple of days as there was going to be some big distances between stops, the girls decided to push on into Big River hut ... tough cookies! arriving in the dark only to be woken a few hours later by a couple of other riders coming in after midnight. Meanwhile I had got a motel room been to the pub enjoyed and beer and roast dinner, washed all my kit (well actually the motel manager did it for me) and slept soundly!

                156 Kilometres, 8 hours 43 minutes riding time, 1345 metres ascent

Day Four – Reefton to Arthurs Pass

Rising early devouring yet another can of creamed rice, I headed out into the mist, today was a day which had me concerned as it started with two sections Big River and the Waiuta track, I had not ridden either of these, but that in itself was part of the adventure.

I cruised along the gravel road sharing it at one point with three Weka chicks, it slowly climbed dipped rolled along until I dropped down to where Big River Hut was the first two and half hours done. Quickly topping up my water bottles from the stream popping in a couple of Zero electrolyte tabs, I headed straight onto the Waiuta track and sense a change in character of the track from a four wheel drive to a single track with some stretches of boardwalk. Nice ... didn't expect that!

Soon this old gold miners track got more technical, more fun as I raced through 30 different shades of green ... tree ferns, moss, lichens all dripping from the mist ... soon I popped out of the bush and through the old township of Waiuta swooping down the smoothest stretch of gravel road in the country and FAST!

After five hours on the go I rode into Ikamatua for more toasted sandwiches and another milkshake, still chasing to catch up with Jo and Hana who had a 25 km (2 &1/2 hour) head start, now I knew this next stretch of rode well from the Southern Alps Tours and got down on the aero bars to grind it out down the western side of the Grey River, I had decided that I had enough food to get me through  to Otira, so didn't pop into Blackball where Jo and Hana were having lunch and a shandy (love their attitude!). Whipping around the back of Lake Brunner and onto Jacksons ... I was starting to fade ... it had already been a big day ... but hit the road and memories of the last time I rode this road came back (2008 Longest Day Coast to Coast) and there was a surge through to Otira ... yeah just what I needed! Stopping in this very unique town at the hotel I brought two cans of rocket fuel (Coke) pretty much sculled one there and then and put the second into my drink bottle with 15 km to go to Arthurs Pass the only thing in my way was the seven kilometre climb up the the Otira Gorge and over the viaduct.

Heading up the gorge travelling by myself ... willing myself on talking aloud ... change down a gear  ... no I am saving it for the steep bit ... this is the steep bit ... no it's not ...just keep pedaling ... just get off and walk ... take a concrete pill ... must have been entertaining for anyone who could hear, but was soon over the top and hammering into Arthurs Pass.

One wobbly cyclist was soon in the Wobbly Kea ordering a beer and dinner ... what a day!

After I had my shower staying at the Mountain House my phone rings it's Jo they had just arrived into town. Arrangements were made to meet in the morning to head out ... sleep time!

                185 Kilometres, 11 hours 14 minutes riding time, 2423 metres ascent

Day Five – Arthurs Pass to Sheffield

Meeting Jo and Hana early we headed through Arthurs Pass leaving the big mountains behind us and into Castle Hill basin, the drizzle started oh well I suppose we had had it pretty good up to now! Slipping on my rain jacket and merino top the descent down Porters Pass was fast and cold, I drove hard onto Springfield trying to stay warm, by the time I got into the Cafe, I was well cold shivering, I ordered some hot food and hot chocolate putting on all my warm clothes and leggings ... still not getting warm. Sitting there with Jo and Hana a friend Luke popped in who had been following us online and had decided to drop in and say Gidday! Which was a good boost.

After a while the discussion turned to moving on, I was struggling to do my zips up and my texts didn't make too much sense. Jo and Hana carried on ... tough cookies ... eventually I headed down to Sheffield but couldn't work out how to get onto the course to Sheffield so just headed down the main road. By the time I got there I was shivering really badly ... not good!

A hard call needed to be made pull the pin for the day and recover or carry on and maybe not finish as the next leg was back into the hills and bush in the rain. I turned left and went to the local pub and booked a cabin, took a stool into the shower and warmed up, had a nanna nap in the afternoon, sorted gear out, ate a very large pub meal. Fellow rider Dave Ryan turned up taking another cabin also wet and cold after a long day, it was good to see another rider and swap stories.

It seemed to be a disappointing day but on reflection a sensible decision. Jo and Hana made it through to the Wharfedale Hut, bloody good effort!

                95 kilometres, 5 hours 11 minutes riding time, 900 metres Ascent

Day Six – Sheffield to Hanmer

Leaving early I saw Dave heading off to the local bakery, famous for their pies. I had decided that I could still finish in under seven days if I pushed through to Hanmer today then to Blenhiem the following day 377 kms of riding ... it was a big call ... one I wasn't sure off, but was going to give it a go!

Crossing the Waimakariri river and heading into the Wharfedale track the climbing started and wasn't going to finish for a long time yet. I had received information from Scott  that there were lots of wash outs on the track, what he failed to mention was all the windfall, travelling by myself these obstacles took a heap of effort to climb over around or under, in between the track was in better condition than I expected. Even though I have lived in Christchurch since '96 I had never ridden the Wharfedale, but had heard how rooty and slippery it was. Some how it didn't live up to this maybe the stories grew!

After reaching the hut, I saw that the girls had a good night here. In my rush to the hut I missed the turn off through to the Lees Valley, so ten minutes wasted trying to find the track I back tracked only to see the sign posted turn - duhhh! navigation today was going to be an issue an hour later crossing and re crossing the river a track marker wasn't easy to find, another wasted ten minutes! The farm track improved and was soon out onto Lees Valley the first quarter of the day gone ... what a tough day so far!

Lees Valley is deceptive is climbs steadily up over a couple of passes to the turn off through MacDonalds Downs, only to find a hand written note by Jo and Hana, telling me to turn left here. that certainly put a big smile on my face! Thanks! MacDonalds Downs is a really good quality farm road but did it go up and down , up and down, up and down ... you get the picture! As this was private land no one was around only some very large Bulls which I quietly skirted around!

Popping out on the other side into North Canterbury, near Hawarden, well I thought near Hawarden! I was starting to fade and fade badly I had little food left by now and was starting to doubt myself that I would get to Hanmer today. I had also arranged to see my significant other at the Hurunui Pub, so with a hot date to look forward too I pushed on and finally hit some tarmac and out my head down and ground it out.

I had been on the go for eleven hours (with stops) and still had 53 km to go, ordering food and a drink, I tried to make conversation with Chris but wasn't being too successful ... I was wasted, tired, grumpy, hungry and just wanted it to finish. It was still great to see Chris and she had also seen Jo and Hana who were about half an hour ahead of me ... still chasing!

I headed off again, feed and watered feeling much better and on a section of road I knew but normally I have been riding my TT bike, oh I wished I had it now! Passing through Culverden I noticed that the 4 Square store was close an hour early, then remembered that it was Waitangi Day! Bugger that also mean the ability to restock in Hanmer would have to wait until tomorrow morning ... mmm ... a late start not what I wanted!

About 8.30 that evening I rolled into Hanmer and got a room at the Hot Springs Motor Lodge ha! they gave me the wheelchair access room ... must of looked like I needed one! I had left Sheffield 14 and half hours ago and was totally trashed!

                176 kilometres, 11 hours 28 minutes ride time, 1766 metres ascent

Day Seven – Hanmer to Blenhiem

I had woken at one in the morning and ate everything I had in the room, turning bags inside out to find the last jelly bean!

Well I had a late start due to the 4 Square store not opening until 8.30 but fortunately Mummbles Cafe opens at 8! Big feed first mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Today was going to be the day I either achieved my second goal or not! Also I had never ridden 200 kms in a day before either on my road bike or mountain bike!

I had broken the day down into quarters again, smaller chunks to focus on, interesting the first 50 kms to the top of Island Saddle (the high point of the tour at 1360m) also included Jacks Pass ... a lot of climbing, if you looked at the elevation profile of the day you would see that it would be all down hill from Island Saddle - Yeah Right!

During the early part I passed several Brevette riders, we had all started at the same time but I had already riden 400 kms further than them, that was a good boost and I was going to need any boost I could get today. Looking up these 12000 year old glacial valley's I could see clouds rolling over the tops of the mountains, a foreboding sign of the weather to come!

Once at the Pass I put on my merino top and rain jacket, the rain showers started, at least it kept the dust down! 150 km in the rain was not going to be pleasant ...

Like a lot of our back country roads they involve opening and closing farm gates, a bit of a chore when by your self with all the stop starting but it seemed today everytime I got to a gate a car or a group of motorcyclists would pull up and I would let them through, my good deeds for the day I kept thinking, sure enough my good deeds got rewarded mmmmm a sugar coated dounut was passed out the car window the vaccuum opened its mouth and it disappeared in an instant! The Rainbow Valley is stunning even in the rain beautiful beech forests, the Wairau river winds through it.

Eventually it pops out onto the Wairau Valley which runs from St Arnaud (9 km away to Blenhiem 94 km away), I was buggered having had a second day totally riding by myself, I stopped at the turn off put on my thermal gloves swoped my wet socks for a merino pair, stuffed my hat into my pocket if I needed, turned my lights on, ate what food I had leaving 5 bars for the last part.

Pushing off this was it the last leg only 94 kms, down hill and it was about 5.30 plenty of time! Soon I realised that I was really suffering was struggling to get any power out! I got ten kms into it ... I stopped and stretched ate half a bar, deciding that I should break this down into ten km chunks! Small bites!

I switched the GPS to the map screen so I couldn't see how slow the numbers were ticking over ... eventually six stops sixty kms later, I got some service on my phone texting Chris she encouraged me to continue, my mate Matt also sent a text saying he knew I would do it! I climbed aboard again and continued ... This was mentally the toughest section of the trip  and it was on the road! When three kms later the Wairau Valley Pub came into view ... food and drink ... at the door I spoke to one of the locals who told me three other riders, two chicks and guy left fifteen minutes ago ... food was more important ... I would happily be chicked in exchange for a pot of tea and two toasted sandwhiches!

Just as I was getting on my bike Martin a friend from Blenhiem showed up, he had been tracking me thought he would pop out  and cheer me on! Thanks Martin!

With a renewed enthusiasm and some local knowledge I headed off into the dark, soon passing through Renwick and onto Blenhiem ... rolling up to Seymour Square Hana, Jo and Phil had arrived fifteen minutes before me, Scott and Ross was there with a beer ... I had done it!

Finished in one piece, finished under seven days, just bloody well finished!

                201 kilometres, 11 hours 26 minutes riding time,  1588 metres ascent

Totals – 6 days 9 hours 30 minutes  - 1105 kilometres – 66 hours 17 minutes riding time – 12766 metres ascent


  1. Awesome ride Brett. You earned that one. Dug real deep. Well done. Jeff

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