Day 1

Cutting things fine, cutting things up.

Distance: 59km
Ride time: 2hrs20

Today didn’t pan out quite as expected. I woke early, packed everything into my rucksack and dry bag and started walking into town to loiter outside the bike shop, so that at least I would feel as if I was doing something. Carrying my helmet and bike shoes, I wondered if I was going to be left standing bike-less in Seymour Square as everyone else rode away at 10 o’clock. Bill was already at the shop, but hadn’t had a look at the bike yet, so I went to get some breakfast and headed to the briefing. Bill seemed very confident, and I battled to trust him to have it ready in time!

Just as the briefing kicked off, I was hugely relieved to receive a text from Bill, “bikes all good to go”. Phew!  A missing spacer was the problem. Next time I might try to take 2 days off work to make sure everything is ship shape well before I leave. The main take home message from the briefing was “don’t be a dickhead”, should be easy enough to remember.  Once happily reunited with my bike, I loaded up the frame bag then pedalled around town a bit to make sure everything was running smoothly. I was ready to roll and even had a few minutes to spare! 

Over a hundred riders gathered in Seymour Square in front of the clock tower and as the clock struck 10 we headed west towards Renwick in a light drizzle. There was a range of bikes from single speed fatbikes, to cyclocross bikes, to full suspension MTBs. I had opted for a carbon hardtail Stumpjumper with tubeless Renegade tyres (because that’s what I had in the shed), running 2 x 10, with aerobars for a change of position. My bedding roll (bivvy, inflatable mattress, lightweight sleeping bag) hung off the aerobars, clothes in a dry bag in a Revelate saddle bag, with bike maintenance tools and a 2L bladder in a Revelate frame bag. Food was squeezed into the frame bag and also in a top tube pouch. I decided not to carry a back pack to reduce the amount of weight going through my bum. A decision I would definitely repeat. 

My top secret strategy was to tag along with The Coastal Crew team as long as that didn't annoy them too much. I thought I might have to revise my strategy when minutes before the start, Todd told me perfectly straight-faced that they were aiming for Hanmer on the first day, and possibly Culverden. Fortunately, he was taking the piss. I thought I would take advantage of Bryce's navigation and mechanical expertise, might need Ian's chiropractic skills at some point, and Todd must be good for something ;). Todd and Bryce did the Brevet last year, and did about 200km a day, which seemed like a realistic goal for me. 

Dale Lopez, one of the oldest riders at 65, and also a Coastal Crew ring leader, got a puncture just before the turn into Northbank Road, so to cries of "see you later" and "good luck" the Coastal Crew lost its first fragment. I did see Dale later, much sooner than expected. 

We settled into a nice rhythm riding along the sealed part of Northbank Rd, heading up a big bunch of riders. Just as we pulled over to cruise at the back of the bunch for a while, Ian's front tyre had other ideas. The Crew pulled over and took the opportunity for a piss stop while the Stan’s worked its magic and we were back in on the road in a bunch of four. We worked well together and all was well until about 5km into the gravel, a total of 59km and 2hrs 20min into the ride. The bike rolls pretty fast with all that extra weight (food, bedding, camping gear, post-Xmas excess mass), and handles a little differently, plus the Renegades roll pretty fast, but are not that grippy, and I was probably running my pressures a little high. Anyway, I lost traction in a deep gravelly corner, nearly saved it, then lost it again. End result, skidded across the road with my right knee bearing the brunt. 

I picked myself up, dusted myself down and realised this was a little more than gravel rash as I could see a pocket about 3cm deep on the medial aspect of my right stifle (horse vet talk). Crap! About 10 guys rushed to my aid, and 3 or 4 first aid kits were plundered to clean up and patch. A highlight was the Wiggles plaster to make me feel better! We pushed the "help but not going to die" button on my spot tracker and I told the guys to carry on and smash it for me. 

Five minutes later a Caterpillar ute drove past heading west. I didn't wave him down because he was going the wrong way and I felt guilty, but he turned up again a few minutes later. The boys had stopped him and sent him back. Mark very kindly drove me back to the first house where we used the landline to phone the Brevet organisers, Scott and Jo Emmens.

A lovely lady called Chris took me in, made me cups of tea and gave me chocolate biscuits, and even offered a fry up, while we waited for Scott and Jo. The house was apparently quite a common stop-off point for adventurers running into trouble on the road, from lost thumbs to drowned vehicles.

Scott and Jo arrived an hour and a half later, and we headed back to Blenheim to A&E where they patched me up. I tentatively asked whether I could carry on riding. I didn’t go into too much detail about what sort of conditions I might be riding through, or elaborate on the lack of washing facilities, or the number of hours I would be riding each day. No one said that I couldn’t ride. The worst case scenario was that the wound might break down and would take a long time to heal making a bigger, uglier scar than the one I was getting anyway. Since my legs weren’t pretty before I started mountain biking, and have got considerably worse since then, I didn’t think one more scar would be a problem, so there was still a glimmer of hope that I might be able to carry on.
Good as new.

The plan was to get a lift to Hanmer Springs with Scott and Jo and then see how it felt in the morning. We were all suffering from FOMO, or rather just MO, on the drive over and consoled ourselves joking about what a horrible time everyone must be having out there on the Rainbow and St James Tracks. It was great getting to know Scott and Jo and hearing their touring tales.

We arrived in Hanmer just before the first rider came through. I settled into a cabin at Alpine Lodge, where the owner took pity on me hobbling about and gave me bedding, tea and toast. I made some adjustments to my aerobars and gear levers that had got a little knocked around in the crash. Otherwise, the bike seemed to be unscathed. Then I got onto facebook to poll all the doctors I know to see if I could find one who would advise me to carry on. My sister came through with the goods, suggesting that riding might help reduce the swelling. 

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