Monday, 21 March 2016

2016 New Zealand Smiddy Challenge - Day Five

Day five - Arthurs Pass to Christchurch

Ride Stats:

Total Distance: 145.8 km
Total calories burnt: 2565 calories which equalled the beer and wine drunk that night to celebrate
Total climbing distance: 1 171 m vertical climbing (or you can call it elevation)
Average speed: 26.3km/h, which is a really good pace for day 5 when all our legs are tired from the previous 4 days riding
Total riding time: 5 hours33 minutes
Total lapsed time: 8 hours 08 minutes, which means we relaxed a bit more at the breaks and enjoyed the last day of the road crews catering
Minimum temp:1 degree s
Maximum temp: 24 degrees
Winds: hard headwind for the final 50km

Road kill count:

16 x UFOs
1 x NZ $2o bird
1 x hanging possum
1 x normal possum
11 x waterfalls

Day five dawned clear and crisp in the remote little township of Bealey where there is a pub, a lodge and not much else. As we woke up and slowly got ready for the last day on tour the mist in the distance started to roll towards us and got thicker and thicker.

We had a classic "Perkynana" moment as a bleary eyed Kevin Douglas walked out of his room holding a little teddy bear that he had slept with but had no idea how it got there. The other riders helped him out by showing the photographic evidence of Kevin abducting the little teddy from the pub the night before. Kevin tried to act innocent but he was guilty and couldn't hide from the evidence.

The roll out time was 7.30 am but no one was in a hurry because we all knew this was our last day together. Sir Kevvy asked Neil to ring the ceremonial Smiddy cow bell to start the ride which he accepted with great honour. Neil is the oldest rider on tour and an inspiration to us all as he gave everything he had every day to keep the pace and make all the climbs.

The first hour of the ride was in thick fog which hid the scenery. I was about to say "I think it's going to clear soon" but realised I had been banned from mentioning the weather. Eventually the fog did clear and the scenery was again breathtaking. The road was weaving its way through the valley next to a clear river surrounded by mountains. Every climb and corner had another awe inspiring view that took the mind off our aches and pains.

The peloton was riding in complete unison and rolling smoothly as we all took a turn on the front. The riders were quiet and focused counting down the kilometres to the first comfort stop. The road crew were waiting for us at a rest area with a hut and a toilet, which some of the riders missed completely as they headed for the bushes. Sammi-Jo was kept busy massaging and stretching and supporting some weary riders.

The conditions on dayfive were perfect as we gradually descended from Arthurs Pass National Park on state highway 73 towards Christchurch. We had just a couple of medium sized climbs to get through before the famous descent that Killer had warned us about. After a quick safety briefing at the top we were all let loose to ride down at our own pace. Some of the experienced riders quickly got up speed and flew down the winding road while the rest of us more cautious cyclists took our time. It didn't matter as we were all smiling when we regrouped.

Only a few kilometres to go until lunch and we were all hanging in there feeling hungry, tired but exhilarated at the same time. Just outside Sheffield we were joined by a group of Smiddy riders who had travelled to Christchurch for Le Race on Saturday. They had ridden out to meet us and we were very grateful to see them as the wind picked up and the tail wind we had been enjoying turned into a fierce energy-sapping head wind.

The head wind stayed with us all the way to Christchurch and really hurt the New Zealand riders physically but not mentally. Nothing could dampen the Smiddy spirit and feeling of camaraderie that had developed between this group of cyclists and road crew.

The last few kilometres of the tour was through the back streets of Christchurch to our final destination. The roads we had travelled for most of the 700 km had been perfect and enjoyable but Christchurch is still recovering from the 2010/11 earthquakes and the roads are not in great condition with a lot of patching. We had to stay focused and 'keep it classy' as ride leader Coollie would stay.

And then we were done and the 2016 New Zealand Smiddy tour was over. 22 strangers had become friends and everyone was hugging and laughing with shear joy that we had made it. No incidents, only 3 punctures and 2 broken spokes was all that we had had to deal with on this tour. There were some sore backsides, stiff bodies and moans but that's a small price to pay for five days riding through the magnificent New Zealand alpine region.

Dinner that night was a lot of fun and everyone was extremely hungry not because the road crew hadn't feed us well, they had, but because we had expended every ounce of energy on the climbs, long days and maybe a few late nights.

When asked what was your favourite part of the tour nearly everyone said Wednesday when we rode 178 km in the pouring rain and gale force winds. To people who haven't participated in a Smiddy tour this may sound strange but it's days like that when everyone's commitment to the Smiddy values of teamwork, spirit and mateship shine through and you really bond with your fellow cyclists.

At the start of the week the New Zealand 2016 riders had raised $50,000 and I challenged them to get to $60,000 by the end of the week. The fundraising now stands at $60,339 with more funds still to come in. It is just incredible what a small group of dedicated Smiddy riders can achieve and how much their efforts will contribute to cancer research.

The final Smiddy teamwork jersey was given to Ian Bisson. He was hurting on day five but that didn't stop him helping the other riders up the climbs the whole day. It was very easy to choose the 'Perkynana' award recipient today as Kevin's escapade with the teddy bear stood out. And finally the Smiddy rainbow socks, in honour of Maria Smiddy, were given to the top 3 fundraisers Stephen and Tim Russell and Ian Bisson who raised over $33,000 together.

The Smiddy team and all our colleagues at the Mater Foundation would like to thank the 2016 New Zealand riders and road crew for their support and dedication. You are all members of the Smiddy family now and we look forward to riding with you again.

New Zealand is a wonderful country for cyclists and there are many places left to explore. If you are interested in joining us in 2017 please visit or email the team We are planning another tour that will travel new roads and mountains in the South Island. More details to come!

~ Cherie

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