I'll begin with a Friday morning ride in a southerly buster. As all you Flamands will know, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad choices of clothing. I layered up and headed out into the teeth of the gale, warmed by my Defeet base layer and the smug sense of self-satisfaction riding in such conditions engenders. Naturally, ten minutes after I set out the sun started to force it's way out from behind the scudding clouds.
But regardless I was dressed for bear.
And the Hillbrick is happy rain or shine. In this case, shine.
The following Sunday Wellington awoke to clear blue skies, and with the previous week's stiff southerly dying out as the day progressed. After celebrating Step-Mothers Day in the morning with Jacq and her Three Sons, I received their blessings to slip out for a nice leisurely ride. I set out a bit aimlessly once again, but definitely yearning for the hills. I raced traffic through town, then headed up Glenmore Street thinking I'd perhaps do a few loops of K-Town and Northland...
I took a quick detour after the Karori Tunnel to have yet another look at a house my late Dad designed for some friends back in the '70s. I've seen it come onto the market a few times and seriously wished I had the resources to buy it - it would be pretty cool to live in one of the homes he architected, although the close proximity of the pylon is perhaps a bit of a worry...
The old Pump House on the Karori Dam at Zealandia.
I headed up Birdwood Street...
...and Messines Road...
...before rolling down into K-Town and up Makara Hill Road, with the intent of turning around at the top to head back the same way. Fat chance. Once I'd made it up as far as the summit the descent into Makara Village proved too much of a temptation - I'd worry about the climb out later!
I don't mean to sound big-headed - as if! - but a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a time when among my circle of hard-riding compadres I totally owned this downhill, and it was nice to get a wee taste of those halcyon days again. I was about 40 seconds slower than my quickest time, but that's still plenty quick enough I reckon, and I was bloody carving.
Now I was down in the valley it seemed a shame not to head down towards Makara Beach...
It's been a long time since I've felt up to riding this great loop, which seems a bit ridiculous when it's really only a couple of hours riding, albeit fairly hilly ones. Shows how ill I must have been and how low my confidence had got.
Random self-pic #658, somehow managing to completely miss my facial region.
Hit the Beach.
One of my expertly stitched panoramas. The sea was calm and the sun shone, but the air was cold in the Bay.
Not wanting to get a chill, I turned straight around and headed back up the road.
Ah, bucolia always opens one up to reflection.
Still not really sure of my direction, I instinctively veered left at the intersection with the main road and headed north(ish) up towards the Takarau Gorge. Most of the hills you can see here used to be dense with pines until recent logging, making the feel of the Gorge totally different from in my youth when we used to race Paris-Roubaix over the damp and shaded unsealed roads.
The Gorge climbs gently towards Ohariu Valley along a meandering stream that has, on occasion, turned into a raging torrent that has washed away big chunks of the road...
The tight twists of this Secteur can be dicey if a car full of hoons comes barreling towards you, but today there was nary a car on the road to rouse me from my reveries.
Once clear of the Gorge itself the vistas open out. Across the rolling paddocks that is Mt Kaukau in the distance with the radio mast on the summit.
We're so lucky to have such peaceful country roads only minutes away from the CBD - they truly are sheer bliss to ride.
One of the many old primes we regularly used to fight tooth and nail for back in the day...
...which is followed immediately by a quick little descent that was often the catalyst for a break to slip off the front.
Just before you drop into the Takarau Gorge/Rifle Range Road intersection and Ohariu Valley proper.
And heading out of Ohariu Valley...
Climbing felt great all day today...
...which makes for an even more enjoyable experience, I think you'll agree.
The shadows grow so long so fast, these days.
Before heading back into town I stopped for the quick gel that it turned out I didn't actually have with me.
I recall when there wasn't a suburb here at all. The inexorable march of progress, I guess.
After wondering whether or not to head along through Khandallah and down Ngaio Gorge, in the end I opted to zip down Ngauranga instead...
...and relish the speed rush that fast and wide descent entails. Obviously taking photos slowed me at the start, but an aero-ish tuck and 100-odd kilograms made for a swift drop down to sea level once I'd stuffed my camera back in my jersey pocket - I didn't have a speedo, but I was passing some cars and holding the pace of the rest so I estimate I was hitting at least 90kph without any problem, and without feeling any of the fear I wondered if I might experience these days.
After such an adrenalin shot it was nice to hop up on the footpath and chill out along SH2 back into town.
I ambled along the Waterfront to feel the ambience on this gorgeous autumn eve, before heading home to complete what had been one of the best soul rides I've had in years.
Here then is the prized souvenir, the signature of the Lion of Flanders on a Lion of Flanders flag, as well as a couple of cool Malteni beer coasters...Cheers, Richard and Keepers!
It was actually a hell of a week for souvenirs. Just a couple of days later I received a manila envelope in the mail that contained the one signature I don't have and that I've most coveted ever since the rider involved grabbed my attention in the dry pages of Velo-News as a brash amateur winning the Settimana Bergamasca back in 1991. This young tyro would go on to become a Tour de France stage winner on debut in 1993, World Champion in Oslo later that same year, and eventually a record-smashing seven-time Tour de France winner. I'm talking about the great Lance Armstrong, of course. These days he is a controversial figure, but as an unashamed fan my admiration for his feats hasn't dimmed and getting his autograph is a huge deal to me. I was awestruck, amazed and astounded to be given this rare memento, and I'm very grateful to my new friend Mike for sending it to me. Also, I'd like send much respect and aroha to my mate Graeme who facilitated the initial contact. Cheers to both of you!
The photo is from the finish of Stage 17 of the 2004 Tour, as Lance wins from Andreas Kloden into Le Grand Bernand. The video of this thrilling stage finish is well worth watching - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Yf1nJYkCHQ
While I'm on hiatus, I still had to deal with a couple of tasks I'd committed to prior to needing to shift. Luckily, building wheels is a job I can do at home in front of the telly in a pinch.
First off was this sturdy cyclo-cross wheel for Jonty - a Velocity A23 rim laced to a Shimano 105 freehub is the go as he gives the growing season of CX races a nudge. My friends Owen and Andy have set up a new HotCX series (in association with iRIDE) to augment and lead into Mike Anderson's excellent and ground-breaking Bike Hutt series that has run for the last few years. If you're not planning to race any of them, I heartily recommend making the effort to spectate one or more of these races, as they are super crowd friendly and a total hoot to watch!
Secondly, I built my main man John a wicked pair of Hope/Arch EX wheels for his new Yeti Big Top, of which much more will come at a later date. Choice.
I'd like to offer my hearty congratulations to Roadworks rider Joel Healy, who earned himself a fine bronze medal in the M1 Time Trial for PNP at the Club National Championships last weekend. Great stuff, bro!
(Photo brazenly stolen from Brian Bushe: L-R Karl Murray 2nd, Mike Henton 1st and Joel Healy 3rd)
Lastly, please don't forget to hit John up (siftyjohn[a]gmail.com) for some sharp looking Roadworks kit, as modelled here by the estimable WO Larkin, Esquire. Email now, we have operators standing by!
Until next time, thanks for reading. Cheers, Oli