Monday, August 20, 2018

Tour de Gravel - Marlborough - 2018

I only heard about the Tour de Gravel when chatting to local Paul Nicholls a few weeks before the event. It was in Blenheim so a good chance to catch up with my parents and Pew, the baby magpie  we found in the carpark at work, who was now living down south with my folks in the Voodoo Lounge.

Got a bro-deal from Bluebridge using their be-kind-to-cyclists promo. Very little room to actually store your bike tho.
Mossieur Veganburger came along too and we met Bretto from Chainslapmag and his buddy Richard on the Ferry. There was some cycling related talk I believe for the next 3 hours.

The Tour de Gravel was a 4 stage gravel race where you rode on to the next stage after finishing the first. A bit like a Grinduro. It was organised by Duncan McKenzie who organises the Graperide, Marlborough's largest cycling event.

My first problem was deciding on which bike to use. There were potentially 4, and they all had their pros and cons. The Giant only had a 38 tooth big chain-ring, and discs felt a bit like over kill on a gravel event like this. The Litespeed would have been the most fun, and probably the lightest rig, but the 2 inch wide tires just don't roll as fast as the 38mm ones, on the seal. On the gravel they would have been great, but on this ride there was a good mix of surfaces.

When you have too much choice.

International Pirates day. Ooo Arrr! Piccie from Matt.
It would have been a blast to ride the retro Peugeot, and I know it handles the gravel well, having done two Eroica's on it, but I went with my Barlow Pass shod Singular Kite cross-bike  in the end. I had no complaints. They were probably the fastest tires there, and I don't think I gave anything away with that choice, maybe I rode a little more tentatively on the roughest descent, but that's pretty much how I ride anyway. I'm  not a risk taker, unlike one poor  guy who went down one corner in front of me on stage 2, coming away with a broken collar bone.

I didn't come into the event with any real fitness but it was still a surprise to be thrashed by 2 guys on singlespeeds. Vaughan Watson who I had come across in the 2014 Kiwi Brevet on an SSer, and Aaron Bleakely. It was a buzz to be riding with these guys, watching them  doing their spasmodic spins as they hung with the bunch at 45kmh in the "wrong gear", then to see them stomp off into the distance on the next climb! It makes you wonder, how much do you really gain from having gears. Obviously they got by without them back in the day.

The object of Scotty's bromance, "Kevin" who he piloted at non-break-neck speed in the early stages, until he got the Ok....

Every time I go to Marlborough I seem to end up dicing with Brent Ackroyd from Bikefit Marlborough and I recognised Lucas Cowley from Auntsfield Estate, the hosts of last year's Cyclocross nationals, and had not realised he was a gun roadie, actually coming 3rd in the Tour de Gravel. I'm pretty sure that the Jason Allen who was racing was the ex national road/track champ. Its great see guys like that mixing it up with allcomers regardless of their form, he was unlucky to puncture in the last stage.

Brett from Chainslap Mag trying to use his phone with gloves on. Pushed it too hard in the big ring into the wind I think.
It was a very achievable course, not too steep at all, with the longest stage being around 27 kms and the others from 18 to 22 kms. There were around 120 riders, with a "Touring" option, for riders less inclined to race, they could leave at their own time and pace around 15 mins before the staged start. There was also a "bag-truck" which went from stage to stage, with everyone's bags and food in it. this was ideal, as it was a cold day and a puffer jacket was a must have.

Shot of generic old guy grimacing, from Digby Shaw Photography
As usual, in Marlborough, local industry gets in behind events in a big way by donating all the spot and merit prizes. Age groups were a bit peculiar at under 50 and over 50 years of age, which probably says something about the demographics of the event. Entry was 85 $ and included a hot pie and coffee at the half-way stage.

There was an after match function meal at the Vines Village Cafe but we hooked up with Bretto and Richard for supper at Raizada Indian Restaurant which was a way better option for the mostly Veggo-freak crew.

There is talk of next years event being in a clover-leaf styled design, with each leg starting at the same place, probably based in Seddon. This is a great idea, although having to get transport to the start would be a downside for Wellingtonians like myself, trying to do it on the cheap, Ferry tickets being what they are. I am sure if there had not been a Cyclocross race on in Wellington that weekend there would have been a hell of a lot more Wellingtonians there.

Mondo Kopua mentioned that he is planning some Grinduro styled events in Marlborough later in the year so keep an eye out for them.

Results here.

A cool video here:   Bretto's Chainslap Mag write up with Digbys amazing photos in here in detail.

Some of the local sponsors were: Golden Mile Brewing , Vines Village Cafe, Bikefit Marlborough, Taylor Pass Honey, Darling Wines.

Why not make a weekend of it and ride back to Picton via Port Underwood. Matt on his buddy Kevin's Singular Kite
As on Scott's Kevin, Bretto ran the 47mm 650B Horizon Byways on his JAEGHER. No complaints.
If you are going to have a puncture, have it on the way home after the ride. Upside down nail.....