Queenstown to Wanaka
It sounded so simple, 50 odd k’s from Arrowtown to Wanaka. That’s nothing – I ride 50k’s before breakfast every Tuesday morning. Throw a mountain range in the middle and it’s a different story altogether though isn’t it.
First things first: Arrowtown. This part of the country is just ridiculously beautiful. I REALLY need to spend more time here. It’s like when God was in whatever mood he was in when he made Gisele Bundchen or George Clooney, he was in the same mood when he made Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown. You cannot look anywhere and not see something breathtaking. Arrowtown has its own magic – all autumn browns and quiet tree-lined streets framed by mountains. Arriving at 7am when it’s still asleep is probably the best way to see this place.
Enough niceties. Onto the mountain range. Lying between myself and the finish line loomed the Crown Range. A Cat1 monster that starts with a series of switch backs, eases off to make you think everything will be okay and then kicks you in the face with a 10-degree average climb to the top of the 700 meter climb. To say I’m not noted for my climbing abilities would be putting it mildly. I just wanted to get to the top and hit the fast descent and run into Wanaka with everything I had to try to limit the damage.
The start was awesome – I believe it’s the only mass start for the whole tour so rolling out with 200 plus riders was a treat. The team was rocking the Tear Fund kit for the first time as well so everyone was looking sharp and ready to ride hard.
The climb itself actually wasn’t too bad. My Strava time for the ascent was around 51 minutes which I was happy with. The real fun came next. The run down the other side is fast and windy and then opens out to a long false flat all the way to the finish. I was born for this!
I was able to bridge over to a bunch of big powerful guys pulling a larger group home and had a manic run to the finish. It was honestly the best time I ever had on my bike. Lot’s of frantic efforts, solid efforts on the front being shared by guys pulling big turns and then lots of gamesmanship and tactics to drop the passengers who were sitting on our wheels. The last 5 k’s it all changed. Everyone wanted to get the final sprint so now we were fighting for the best place in the bunch. Close enough to the front to have a chance, but still sheltered from the wind so I didn’t blow up. It was all elbows and shoulders and agro – great stuff!
Anyway, in the final reckoning I got third in the sprint – not overall, not by a long shot, but fighting it out to the finish was unbelievably satisfying. This week is still epic.