Day 6

The final push

Distance: 130km
Riding time: 11hrs
Total ascent: 3573m

After a good-for-camping night’s sleep my alarm went off at 5:15am. Today we planned to finish the final 130km in time for tea. The only way I could persuade myself to get up was to let the air out of my mattress while still lying on it, so that it becomes too uncomfortable to stay in bed. A handful of Breveteers were staying in the campsite, and Mike and I were the tardiest to leave, but caught the others on the way up the Maungatapu, the last big climb before the end.

Good Morning!
 All of the horror stories I had heard about Maungatapu had combined so that it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, which is always a good way round to have things. I was expecting a couple of hours of walking, but most of it was rideable, and we were at the summit after an hour.  The descent was a little bumpy and I had some problems with my homemade Garmin mount, which had done surprisingly well since I had just tied the clip onto my aerobars with an old inner tube #kiwiingenuity. There were some nice smooth rollers down the bottom, and it was tempting to try and get some air, but I remembered my broken spoke and reminded myself, “ride to survive”, and kept the wheels on the ground. 

Maungatapu Track - steeper than it looks.

The top!
Pelorus Bridge cafe was a welcome stop for a bacon and egg pie, coffee and a muffin for the road. A couple of Brevette riders joined us, unimpressed with the number of wasps in the vicinity. The ride into Havelock was fun and fast along the main road, marred only by a logging truck that gave us a scare by passing within inches. As we flew through Havelock, some random people were yelling at us outside the Blue Moon Lodge. I thought they were just random blue-dot watchers, but I later found out it was my friend Nic Johnson and one of Mike’s friends Paul – small world!

I was keen to carry on, with the smell of the finish in my nostrils. I know it’s “not a race” but I was still pretty keen to be first woman home, since if I couldn’t manage that when I had missed out 180km, then what hope was there? I enjoyed Queen Charlotte Drive into Picton, reminiscing again – this time about my ride out after the Queen Charlotte Track with my brother and sister-in-law, Christmas 2013. The weather always seems to be perfect here, fluffy white clouds in a deep blue sky mirrored in the waters. Strange how the sea is much less blue just 20km north across Cook Strait, where I live. I stopped to take the obligatory Sounds picture, and dropped my driving license, which lives in a compartment on the back of my phone, over the edge of the road. Fortunately it was waylaid in some shrubs and retrievable with minimal scrambling. 

A mediocre Sounds picture. Not worth losing a driving license over.
The hussle and bustle of  Picton was overwhelming after not being in a major town during daylight hours for some time, and the queue for the musical toilet was long and slow as people struggled to work out how to operate the taps and flush the toilet. It was of course an opportunity to visit the Dutch bakery for enough treats to see me through to Blenheim. I met a Brevette rider on his way back to the ferry, who helpfully held my bike up while I worked out the best way to pack my baked goods.

Port Underpants, as the Port Underwood Road came to be known (at least in my head), contained some unanticipated and lengthy climbs. The midday sun was hot and the road was dusty and I ran out of water with a few hot climbs yet to go. Fortunately I had recently read Lisa Tamati’s autobiography, which persuaded me that humans can function quite well on quite little water, and compared to running through the Sahara, conditions on Port Underpants were relatively clement.  In addition, there was a trickle of an algae-filled stream at Robin Hood’s Bay, and Mike had water purification tablets, so apart from having to wait half an hour for the tablet to work, crisis was averted.

A jelly bean every km, and the thought of cold beers in the square kept spirits up, and I enjoyed the climbing more than the gravel descents, of which I was still wary. To crash once may be regarded as misfortune, but to crash twice looks like carelessness; so I continued to descend like a frightened geriatric.

When we reached Whites Bay (more reminiscing about the Mt Robertson loop, which has the most awesome descent!), Mike’s friend Scott (purveyor of Wiggles plasters on day one) was waiting for us, having withdrawn from the ride with a knee injury. He rode the rest of the way back into town with us, pushing hard into the strong headwind. He clearly had more gas in the tank than we did, and decided to go on ahead to retrieve our bags from Bike Fit.

We reached the square at about 5:30pm – 5 days 7 and a half hours since the start. For me, about 980km of the 1151km had been completed. High fives were exchanged, crisps and beers consumed, and we waited for a few more of the characters that we had been criss-crossing with over the last couple of days to roll in. 

Direct contravention of Rule #95 (and a few others).
I felt an enormous sense of achievement. I had managed to reclaim the chance to ride almost 1000km after things had looked very questionable after my crash. One of the goals of my ride was to see whether I would enjoy the Tour Aotearoa and maybe one day the Tour Divide. This question had been definitively and resoundingly answered in the affirmative, and it seems I am hooked. The body had held up extremely well, and I felt that I could have carried on, although the taunt of being just under 1000km wasn’t sufficient for me to ride to the ferry! (It would have been rude to ride after Emily had gone to the trouble of organising a shuttle bus.) 

After a welcome shower a few of us went for an Italian meal which claimed to have "legendarily large" portions. To the waitress’s surprise, starters and mains were no match for a bunch of hungry Breveteers and all plates were polished clean.

I was on a post-Brevet high, talking smack and catching up with all the characters we had met along the way. Glen, Brett and Pete rolled in later that evening, completing the ride on a full suspension, a hard tail single speed and a cyclocross bike. No consensus had been reached about the ideal choice of bike. The Coastal Crew arrived at 4:40am and crashed in the TV lounge of the holiday park after a 280km day. Todd looked about 20 years older than the last time I had seen him in Sheffield. (I can confirm that his normal youthful appearance has since been resumed.)

In conclusion, I highly recommend the Brevet experience. I'll be back....

The final words are my thank yous:

To Scott and Jo for organising the whole thing as volunteers, and their awesome rescue skills; all the boys who provided first aid; Mark who gave me a ride to the house; Chris and Paul for their hospitality while I waited for my rescue; Sue the nurse for picking out all the gravel from my knee; the kind people at Alpine Lodge, Hanmer and Maruia Motel for service above and beyond; Hanmer bike hire for removing my broken spoke; Mike for being great company; Sam at AvantiPlus Kapiti Coast for looking after my bikes on a daily basis; Bill from AvantiPlus Blenheim for emergency bike fixing; Charlotte, Tim and The Coastal Crew for all their advice; Lisa for making me fit enough to do it; and everybody who followed my progress and sent me messages of encouragement along the way. Thank you all, I couldn't have done it without you!


  1. You rock Peg! So amazing to even have done a single pedal stroke after getting those stitches. And a great writer too :)

  2. Great - enjoyed reading that and reminiscing about my attempt last year... An inspiring and humorous read... ;0)