Tuesday, 21 March 2017

2017 New Zealand Smiddy Challenge - Day 1

The Stats: 
5:06 hours ride time
327.9kph average speed
Max speed: 67.6 KM/hour
Elevation: 1252m
Loss: 938m
Max temp: 29 (that Garmin must have been in the car!)
Min temp:9 degrees (the guys were freezing today!)

Written by: Krista Page 

This may be the official start of the NZ Smiddy Challenge but for those involved this is not the start, it took an immense amount of hard work and preparation to get to this day. 

This group of people are all here to traverse the 5 day challenge from Christchurch to Queenstown. Made up of complete strangers through to dear friends and family, they are here to raise money for cancer research and patient services at Mater. Their motivations are many and varied but the goal is the same and this is what ultimately brings the group together.

There are 44 riders who have worked to be at rollout today; sadly three aren’t able to be with us as they had planned. 

Smiling for Smiddy founder Mark “Sharky” Smoothy has been diagnosed with Ross River fever which has pushed the limits of his health and prevented him from taking part in any form. To say Sharky is devastated is a massive understatement. 

Our fellow rider Ian Bisson came to grief with some poorly designed road furniture and parted ways with his bicycle and also a fair chunk of his knee, he’s a tough nut and will be joining the group in Lake Tekapo albeit in a different capacity than originally intended, and lastly another of our fellow riders Scott McGeever has had a delay but will be a very excited and pumped Day Two starter. 

It takes an army to get the peloton on the road and keeping them moving forward, fed, watered and safe. This challenge has 13 road crew that will work to the bone to make magic happen. As with the riders we also have a volunteer that sadly isn’t here to be part of this journey. 

David Smiddy is the patriarch of Smiling for Smiddy and his involvement has run deep since the first challenge. His involvement in the past 18 months has been deeper and he most likely thought retirement would give him free time but I suspect he is busier than ever. He too is unable to be part of this particular challenge and is greatly missed by all of us as much in equal quantities as he is missing us. There is no one who can replace his cheek and dry humour. 

Our very excited riders and road crew woke to a very dark and cold Christchurch morning. At 6 am the kitchen in the YMCA Christchurch was overthrown with road crew busily preparing a feast. The hungry hoards came in droves and were presented with an array of hot and cold options from fruit, cereal and yogurt to porridge, beans and toast. Barely a crumb was left.

After the feast the riders gathered in the car park juggling bags and bikes, the road crew again whipped into action relieving the riders of their luggage. With roll out due at 7 am the car park was buzzing. 

Smiling for Smiddy's Christian “Killer” Killeen took charge and quietened the crowd; riders new and old listened intently as Killer gave his pep talk and safety briefing quelling some of the nerves of those a little anxious of what lay ahead. 

Traditions run deep in Smiling for Smiddy and one of these is bestowed by Kevvy Enchelmeier. At the beginning of each day Kevvy invites a person to ring the cowbell to set the riders off on their way. Today this honour was granted to Stephen Russell. 

Stephen continues to be a massive supporter of Smiling for Smiddy and this year has taken an even greater leap of support by generously sponsoring the New Zealand Smiddy Challenge. In addition to his personal involvement and the financial backing from his law firm, Russells Law, Stephen has instilled the same support and involvement throughout his firm, his family and clients.

The ringing of the cowbell saw our 41 riders roll out into the darkness under the guidance of John and Janet Curren in the lead vehicle. John and Janet have had been involved with Smiling for Smiddy from the very first Challenge ride. Kevvy, who has also been with Smiddy since the early days, brought up the rear. 

The lead and rear vehicles work tirelessly communicating all traffic movements between each other over the radio, keeping our peloton in extremely safe hands.

In addition to the lead and rear vehicles we also have Brad Tyler in the mechanic vehicle and this morning he was kept extremely busy with all manner of mechanical hiccups including the mood altering derailleur hanger fail experienced by our own ride director, Killer. 

Unfortunately this made for some very unwelcome van time for Killer and perhaps made him just the tiniest bit grumpy. This state of mind was to be short lived thanks to the absolutely amazing Wendy Muir. There is seriously no problem Wendy can’t solve. Wendy swung in to action and while also guiding her team of amazing road crew to their next task managed to sort a spare part to get Killer back on the bike with the assistance and handy work of our superstar mechanic Ben Hola. Killer would once again in his happy place. 

The riders were treated with spectacular scenery today, this however came at the cost of riding up some incredible mountains. Heading out of Christchurch the flat road soon gave way to Dyers Pass road which skirts along Thomson Park Scenic Reserve. Once at the peak of this climb the riders turned onto Summit Road which continued its upward trajectory and gave way to the spectacular views on the left hand side of Governors bay and the right the views to Christchurch and of the recently fire scorched valley. After testing their legs, the riders were then gifted the decent which, if it wasn’t sporting technical hairpins, loose gravel, potholes, cattle grids and a stray llama, it quite possibly could have been enjoyable.

The downward trajectory continued after leaving Summit road and tuning onto Gebbies Pass Road, this road also presented danger in the form of a tight hairpin turn with diesel oil which claimed the vertical status of one of the riders. The incident proved superficial with the loss of a little skin and a few bruises, but zero damage to the bike. After careful assessment of man and bicycle, along with a little resting time in the van, he was back on the bike riding as strong as ever.

Morning tea was held in the quite hamlet of Dunsadel. Who knows what the town made of the decent of catering trucks bursting into town to set up in record speed the feast that was soon to swooped upon like a swarm of locusts by the hungry peloton. 

A quick 20 minute turnaround saw the peloton return to the road to ride a further 55 km through the Canterbury Plains before stopping at for lunch at Rakaia Gorge. The decent into the gorge was not enough for some of our adrenaline junkie riders and their need for speed saw them partake in a jet boat experience on the clear aqua blue glacier-fed Rakaia River. 

Again the scenery was stunningly spectacular and like earlier in the day our riders again found themselves at the base of yet another tough climb. With very wearily legs, we reconvened to tackle the last remaining stage of today. Clearly good fortune was shining down on us because not only did we have a smooth decent in Methven but there was a cracking tailwind.

On arrival there were high fives and hugs between riders and road crew and laughter was in abundance. 

Killer pulled the group together for another strong Smiddy tradition—the Huddle. This has been part of Smiling for Smiddy since the first ride and we are reminded through this action why we ride. Killer handed the reins over to our Townsville group of John and Kirsteen Masson and Jason Slingsby. Their words of gratitude to fellow riders and road crew were followed by cheers and sealed off with the all important and highly cherished chant of SMIDDY, SMIDDY, SMIDDY! 

Category Jersey Winners:· 
Congratulations to Scott McGeever who was our Category Jersey Winner.
Scotty lives and breathes teamwork and was awarded his jersey as a representative of his team (Matthew Crook, Scott Felsman and Peter Ferraris) who all came together to make sure Scotty was sorted and able to ride after missing the first day of the ride. The team have also been dedicated fundraisers, raising more than $20 000 for cancer research at Mater. 

NZ Smiddy Challenge, day 1. Photo by Michael Fellows

Photo by Michael Fellows

Photo by Michael Fellows

Lunch time jet boat rides on the Rakaia River. at Photo by Michael Fellows

Happy birthday to Phil Anderson! 

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