22/2/12 the last of the summer wine.....
Too much wine and too much song opened up a day of remembrance for the 27 Christchurch team members. 12.51pm would mean a compulsory stop to commemorate the time and day a year ago when our lives changed irrevocably.
190km day ahead and saddle sore rumps guaranteed a slow even pace out of Invercargill. The nineteen men and five women chattered amongst themselves enjoying the leisurely pace promised until morning tea time at 60km later. Textbook riding was observed as we passed through Riverton and the coastal glory of Gemstone Bay ALMOST slow enough to take photos of the magnificent scenery. What began as a ride through a gloomy rolling countryside likened to Scotland continued onto a new world mimicking a colder version of the Florida Keys.
A quick left turn off the highway to edge onto the coastline to Colac Bay found us cold, wet but unfazed at the Pavillion Cafe. An establishment that could have been at home on the Auckland waterfront proffered up cheese scones and fruit muffins by the dozen. The sated cyclists looked out over the waterfront through the drizzle, warm of heart and stomach.
Three bikes stowed by the ladies and jackets donned the remaining crew and we headed out for our next lunch stop at Blackwood School. The pace again civil and the land gradient accommodating we climbed gradually enjoying the lengthy downhills that go hand in hand with the ascents.
Acutely aware of the date and time we hauled the peloton to a stop at precisely 12.48 in readiness for the 12.51pm minute of silence. Heads bowed on an open silent road deep in the wilderness we all reviewed our personal demons and mourned the loss of our compatriots.
Morning tea now a distant memory unconsciously upped the pace considerably as we bolted towards our lunch stop. Tuatapere came and went, pretty and purposeful and a definite stop on any other occasion.
The grounds of Blackwood school swimming pool was awakend for an hour. The variety of lunch options further added to the frivolity. Laying around like school children chewing sandwiches from plastic triangles we enjoyed a trip down memory lane when life was less complicated.
Mount Blackwood needed mounting as did our cycles again. Heavy bottoms but light hearts approached the climb with trepidation. A 200m stretch of road works left us grappling with our machines. Those dextrous enough forged through and were first off the mark for the uphill race. At the apex the sun shone brilliantly along with our smiles to have climbed through the incline and gravel of the continual roadworks.
The downhill was spectacular with riders clocked at 65km/hr over the 10km stretch. Euphoria swept through the team like wildfire as it was all downhill from here with an accompanying back wind. A sprint was booked for the Manapouri stop, 20 kms from Te Anau and didn't fail to please. The view from behind was like following in a lead car witnessing professionals pumping their way home for the big money.
Lake Manapouri proved skiable. A group photo was called for taking full advantage of the picturebook backdrop. Affluent bach owners glanced up from their decks and their books as the cyclists sloped past.
A cheer went up from the crowd as we passed the Te Anau sign. 190km and six hours and twenty minutes in the saddle since we had set out that morning.
The Ranch restaurant in the village catered well to the still energised group after some restorative massaging. Keen to make like Velcroe with the Explorer Motel's pillow we eagerly crowded into one unit for the days summary from the team captain. Acknowledgments were made with members commended and condemned in equal parts.
The sandman called for some with the cricket proving a great distraction for the wifeless boys on tour.