Ride organiser report by Janet Chilton
A superb team effort helped three Kiwi Randonneurs, Linda de Ruyter, Simon Henderson and myself, complete the Wairarapa Winter 600kms (Greytown to Dannevirke and back) during the weekend. As well as the excellent support provided by Ed Allen and Tim O’Brien, our small group was fortunate that the weather gods smiled on us for the two day epic as cycling long distances in the middle of a New Zealand winter has its risks. This ride was a replacement one for a 600kms planned for warmer times in April, but postponed due to the Covid Lockdown. Altogether we climbed over 5207 metres in 36 hours and 40 minutes. Jeremy Rowe, long distance extraordinaire, also signed up and cycled the 442kms Day One loop back to Masterton, in an impressive time.
Day One. Began in Greytown at 6am on the Saturday morning with a -3 degrees frost blanketing the ground. However, after three hours in the saddle, the sun came out and warmed us for the gentle ride through scenic rolling South Wairarapa countryside. During this time we were fortunate to have Ed Allen’s friendly banter and company, as he braved the frosts and early morning start, to escort us for the first 120 kms before turning back to Martinborough at the Dyers Rd turnoff. After a brief stop at a Masterton café, we set off for Glenross Lodge, Pongaroa. Absolutely no wind to bother us and just one tough hill to climb before meeting Tim at the Lodge, mid-afternoon. He welcomed us with tea and food, then joined us for the night-time Pongaroa, Pahiatua, Woodville, Dannevirke, Weber, Pongaroa loop – altogether 170kms and some challenging hills to climb.
Climbing on the Pahiatua Pongaroa road. Although coldish with a slight head wind, we were lucky to be guided during the night by a beautiful full moon. Skyline views were stunning.
During the night, Tim, cheered us with his stories and towed us all the way to KFC at Dannevirke, introducing me to my first KFC experience. We warmed up with hot food and drink.
At KFC, Dannevirke, the only place open in the town, so late at night.
We set off for Weber, during the coldest part of the night. A sugar injection of crunchie bars and sweets, helped Simon and Linda spin up the hills and push through the cold to our planned 360kms stopover back at Glenross Lodge. Despite arriving there at 2.30am and cycling the night loop with us, Tim was quick to light the fire and cook a dinner of hot soup, spaghetti, eggs on toast. The perfect host! So welcome! Alarms were set for 5am (two hours sleep in all) before setting off on Day Two to complete the remaining 240 kms.
We woke to discover that the weather gods were still on our side. Warmish morning, no frost and slight norwest winds - made it easier for us to cycle back. Spirits were sagging at Alfredton, so a brief break there and talk of a cooked breakfast when we made it back to Masterton, spurred us on. From there it was a quick, tail wind ride to Martinborough and Lake Ferry.
A stop at Lake Ferry before setting off on the last leg to the East West access to Lake Wairarapa, then around the bottom of the lake to Featherston.
Linda’s selfie. A surprisingly warm mild sunny winter’s afternoon.
Simon’s comment when he took this pic of Linda and me on the south side of Lake Wairarapa near sunset with only about 30kms left to complete. “I'm glad I got that one because it marked the point when we didn't have a strong headwind which was forecasted to fight through. The weather gods loved us!”
Linda - ‘I was so focused and wouldn’t let my guard down until I had finished. I wasn’t going to tell myself I had completed the ride 30ks out from the finish line, it was when I crossed my front wheel over the driveway to Janet’s house in Greytown, that I could tell myself ‘I have just completed a 600kms ride. How surreal is that! So happy I completed the ride’.
Overall, the supportive team effort and the especially kind weather gods, made it a very special magical winter ride. A huge thank you to Simon, Linda, Tim, Ed and Jeremy for joining me on the 600. And congratulations to Linda for completing her first 600kms and also to Simon, as the ride marked his comeback to randonneuring after swifting for the last 18 months.