The patriarchal peloton departs most Wednesdays from an undisclosed location at around morning tea time. The text goes out to those on ‘’the list’’ the night before or early that morning. Getting your name, and staying on ‘’the list’’ takes years of commitment, determination and making sure you are in the know.
Like soldiers into battle the group poles for position eager to catch up on races raced or rides ridden over the weekend. This happy group chitter chat at medium pace with positioning irrelevant most of the way to Tai Tapu, weather permitting.
Once on the main road with cars whizzing past at 100km minimum, the group morphs into single working unit. With a particularly hard head wind it is time to group ride professionally, sapping each rider equally as to gain no advantage before the hills of Gebbes Pass. To date the predominantly male (all but me) peloton has acted chivalrously but as their nurturing has increased my game tactics, I have been expected to do my share or a fraction thereof.
Motukarara can be an evil bend in high winds, nudging you perilously towards the white line and the oncoming open road traffic. The cluster stick together surrounding those with less oomph in a shroud of testosterone all the way to the turn off to the Pass.
Heading towards the inevitable hill the chatter has been left behind with cyclists deep in their own private Idaho contemplating the climb ahead. Some defeated before even started, others plotting their strategy for a yellow jersey finish. At the bottom of the hill momentum can be counted on for an early getaway. Gear gnashing and postulating for position occurs before the full brunt of the gradient hits you. True colours can be witnessed as the hard nuts just dig it in and grind their way to the top with every muscle in their body stretched, their lungs screaming for oxygen and their veins pulsating violently. A quick reprieve at the top for a tally up, a snack or just a release of the bladder (it’s great to be a boy) and then whoosh down the other side, the previous pain, like childbirth, soon forgotten.
Biking speed varies as we regroup before taking on the next two sets of climbs, endearingly referred to as “The Bitches.” Not quite bad enough to be a “Bastard” but annoying nevertheless. The strength of males never ceases to amaze me as they climb relentlessly, getting stronger as the length of the climb increases. Happy to be left in a whiff of their after shave, I pound it out alone through both of my aforementioned sisters and catch the tail end of their convivial conversations at Governors Bay.
With only Rapaki and Cass Bays to race through before the last climb up Evans Pass we press on, euphoric in the knowledge that most of the work has been done and that now the fun begins. The Rapaki climb is a tough stallion to tame. Always unpredictable on how you hit it en masse, it can leave you ‘’dead on arrival’’ or still punching your way through it with momentum as your friend. Cass Bay on the other hand is much more fun. With accurate positioning you can be sucked into a vortex propelling you to the front seemingly effortlessly if manoeuvred correctly.
With three wins to choose from, seldom taken by one rider alone, the peloton returns to its amicable self as we head in to Lyttelton. Always picturesque, a brief and pleasurable encounter before the last climb for the day up the interminable Evans Pass. The chatter ceases again as we turn left into a particularly angry incline exiting Lyttelton as quickly as we entered her.
The climb up Evans is enjoyed and endured with panoramic views of the harbour to the right akin to those of any Mediterranean coastal town. The men are sorted from the boys (and girls) as again their testosterone fuelled thighs pump their way piston like to the final crest. A final regroup and recharge then a rapid fire descent into Sumner.
Sumner is awash with tempting coffee stops but ‘’time is money’’ and it is a week day. The ride out of Sumner gains momentum as we build to a crescendo on the causeway. Unspent energy is released with gay abandon as attacks are made and challenged with another ‘winner on the day’ crowned on its conclusion.
The ride into town is fragmented with the odd altercation between cycles and cars and the addition of the obstacle course that is our city streets. Cyclists pare off the peloton at differing intervals to return to their normal lives. For those left there is one last sprint champ through the CBD. On a one-way street over three lanes wide the dregs of the peloton gather the remnants of their meagre might for a final surge. Any passing van or bus is utilized for its magical drafting powers as we hurtle towards the hospital turnoff, escaping Admissions on this occasion.
The ‘’boys of the peloton’’ range in age, employment, social standing and gender, but come together weekly joined by their passion for the ride. I am often asked what I am training for as this peloton is very goal oriented. My reply to that is the ride itself. It is truly a privilege to ride with such a physically accomplished lot and as long as I can continue to do so; I will have achieved my goal. That and the legitimised gawping at Lycra clad well formed bottoms.....