Thursday, 17 March 2016

2016 New Zealand Smiddy Challenge - Day four

Day four - Greymouth to Arthur's Pass

Last night no one had the nerve to predict the weather - so we didn't and today we woke up to beautiful sunny skies.

It is very rare that the Smiddy riders and road crew get to sleep in however Killer, Smiddy ride director extraordinaire, had set the roll out as 8am. It was a rare gift and one we all were very grateful for. Some in the Smiddy peloton took advantage of the sleep in and stayed out until 2am sampling the local fine wines and top shelf liquor. But as they were warned "what goes on tour goes on the blog!"

It's the 17th March and St Patrick's day so the natural choice to ring the cow bell was an Irish person. We didn't have an Irish person in the peloton so we made do with Malcolm, from Scotland, who has been mentioned in every blog so far and needed to have an excuse to be in this one.

The blue skies this morning were stunning but it was still cold and very windy. We had to work together to stay upright and moving forward. As we left Greymouth the wind dropped, the weather warmed up and the scenery was breathtaking. The first stop was at the Brunner Historic Mine Site which had a very tragic history but beautiful views over the river.

There were some very tired bodies in the peloton early on and everyone was quiet as we got through the first 43 km to morning tea. Lake Brunner is a beautiful sight and well hidden. You have no idea there is a lake until you turn the final corner and there it is like a mirror reflecting the mountains. It was the perfect spot to play tourist and take a lot of photos.

Then we were back on the road with only 30 km to ride until lunch which sounds easy but every little climb tested the peloton as we tried to stay together and work together. We rode through a beautiful peaceful valley that was Irish green and the wind dropped. The speed in the peloton picked up as we looked forward to an early lunch. We timed it perfectly as the Scenic Touring Train went past and blew its horn in recognition of our fabulous riding skills.

Lunch was a quick stop as we wanted to get on to the hardest part of the day which was climbing

Arthurs Pass. Nervous energy started to build amongst the riders with some wanting to test themselves and take KOM from last years rider Rod Tanner and others scared they weren't up to the challenge. After a quick briefing at the base of the climb the riders were let loose and given the chance to test themselves mentally and physically.

Nothing can prepare you for the views and the steepness of the climbs. Both are breathtaking and awe -inspiring. Every rider today took on the challenge of Arthurs Pass and everyone has a story to tell afterwards. The best story of the day is from Bisso who decided halfway he had had enough and it was time to find Kevvy and the van. He did and when we all regrouped at Arthurs Pass village he decided to get back on the bike and ride the last 10km however he had "accidentally" left his shoes half way up Arthurs Pass. Oh no the tragedy he wouldn't be able to ride the last day and reach Christchurch. However someone was looking after him as a kind hearted motorbike rider had found Bisso's shoes and tucked them into his jacket and turned back to ride up Arthurs Pass and find the poor rider. Bisso had his shoes back and was back on the bike. This story earnt Bisso the Perkynana award for day 4.

Tonight we awarded two Smiddy jerseys for mateship and spirit. Mateship was for David "the captain" Hill who was everyone's friend, supporter and ride leader "hand of God". He never had a bad thing to say and was always the one talking the riders through the pain. The Spirit award was given to Maria Douglas who rode up Arthurs Pass in tears, in pain and with the support of Paula, she made it to the top smiling and honouring her mothers memory.

It's hard to believe that tomorrow is day 5 and our last day together as we ride into Christchurch. It will be a very special day tomorrow and we don't care what the weather brings. Actually we are all too scared to read the forecast and predict rain, sunshine and/or wind.

It's been an incredible 4 days so far and tomorrow will be just the same!

Oh and Rod, from the 2015 tour, is still KOM. 

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