We conquered a mountain today called the Bastard. It climbed and climbed, and every time you came to a blind corner, and thought that things up ahead might get easier, or even better, it disappointed you - and the hard work continued. No one needed to ask how it got its name.
But we had a great start to this New Zealand campaign. Riders flew into Christchurch from all over Australia (and even had time to spend themselves in Kiwi jokes on the flight) before meeting up in the car park of the Commodore Hotel, where everyone put their bikes back together under the guidance of the team mechanic, ‘Nashy’, and a few people marvelled at new frames, wheels, etc, they had acquired in advance. We adjourned later to the bar to primitively celebrate the success of the Chain Reaction Queensland. Ridiculously, we had already worked so hard that we smashed the fundraising target of $1.2M and then pushed through the “stretch’’ target of $1.3M, and are currently sitting at $1.31M with a new target being formulated. There was a big whack of happiness about what we had achieved when the ride hadn’t even started and there is still 7 days of fundraising ahead of us.
Christchurch is a gentle sort of city. Kind of like Toowoomba, but not so racey! The effects of the earthquake 6 years ago are still everywhere. The city centre is a mess of bollards and construction work (which, strangely, has been very exciting for some of our riders). A taxi-driver told one of the blog-writers that there was an exodus of people from the city immediately after the quake, but since then the numbers have returned, albeit with lots of construction workers, mostly Irish. The taxi-driver explained how 9,000 houses were destroyed in the quake, especially in the hills that surround Christchurch, and how the high-rise buildings in the city centre shook “like tofu’’. But its a beautiful city of weeping willows, liquid ambers and elms, with a winding creek called the Avon and a very flat centre, which suited the peloton as it emerged from the hotel.
The official ride this afternoon was 68.8 kilometres with an elevation of 718metres. It had been curtailed on account of some mudslides last week which damaged some roads. But many of the riders added on 40 or 50 kilometres this morning just to make sure that we make our target of 1000 kms when we reach Queenstown. The peloton is a massive 58 riders, which takes a long time to wind through traffic lights, but the locals were remarkably tolerant. We set out at a fast clip of about 38 kilometres an hour for the Bastard, but we reckon there was some nervous energy amongst the riders which will settle as we put in the kilometres.
Maybe the single most bizarre thing that happened today was Johnny Barton obsessing about getting his legs waxed in the training ride this morning. His group stopped at some traffic lights just near a beauty shop, and Johnny raced in to see if the could be squeezed in. The lady only had 10 minutes before her next client, but he took the slot and she brutalised him over 9 frenzied minutes. He was almost back on the road before the lights turned green.
As is custom each night, the presentations began with the regular talking to from event director Tim Chadd about what went well (and what ‘needs improvement’) and was followed by the opening ceremonies presented by the Hutchison Builders/AEIOU team (Hutchies). Inspired by the recent Olympics, there was even an opening video designed to get us hyped for the week ahead. One of our number, Dr James Morton, spoke passionately about AEIOU and shared his personal story about his son (now 18) and how his life has remarkably changed as a result of the work by AEIOU Foundation. While we celebrate our fundraising success, it is stories like James’ and that of the young boy William that remind us why we continue to push so hard for months leading up to this event.
The night concluded as it always does with the presentation of the (7) competition jerseys. The yellow jersey went to Ash Dawson who is riding for the first time and has already raised more than $25,000.00 personally. The black jersey (spirit of Chain Reaction) went to Peter Sherrie from Sunkids. The polka dot jersey (for climbing) went to Jaimie Burnell. The green jersey (sprinter) went to Derek Butterfield and the blue jersey (panache) went to Karl Butterfield. The White jersey (best new rider) went to Simon Wright, and the red jersey (the entertainment jersey) went to Lachlan Grant. All deserving riders who will wear their kit proudly on Day 2 from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass.