At 730am we set off on our 130km route into the cheerful town of Wanaka, and then on to the base of well-known ski resort, Treble Cone - famous for its long, uncrowded groomed runs and challenging off-piste terrain, accompanied by unrivalled views over Lake Wanaka and the southern alps. Our route then doubled back on itself and (thankfully) we started to head in the general direction of our destination, Queenstown.
Each day is curated by ride director extraordinaire, Tim Chadd, to challenge us in some way or form, so there was no surprise when we were told that we would have to ascend the terrifying Crown Range, in order to reach our destination. We weaved our way across undulating terrain and past the famous Cardrona Hotel - one of New Zealand’s oldest and quirkiest pubs (it is built on top of a mine shaft last used in 1863), and definitely worth a visit - towards the foot of the climb.
In keeping with Chain Reaction tradition, the committee had decided that the climb up the Crown Range would be a “teams challenge”, with the first full team to arrive at the top of the range to be declared the winner. But (also in keeping with Chain Reaction tradition) the unwritten rules of such events expressly permit all sorts of bribery, purchase of head starts, rider trades and other skullduggery - so long as it involves a generous donation to your team’s fundraising page.
Each team shot out of the blocks at 1 minute intervals, eating up the early kilometres of the nearly 15km climb. But the Crown Range is unforgiving, as its gradient gradually increases, until the last few kilometres which shoot up to 18%, leaving riders snaking their way across the road, desperately looking for a friend to lend a hand. This is when the camaraderie and teamwork of Chain Reaction is at its best - each team digging deeper and deeper, in the hope of taking line honours, and bragging rights for final night of the tour. The Kilcor team (known as the “freight train”) were hot favourites, but ultimately it was the Chain Reaction Collective team that crossed the finish line in first place - all strangers before joining the ride, but having bonded through months of training and the last week of riding together, to produce a victory that will go down in the history books. If only they had known that they would be first to the top on their own merit, before spending a fortune on buying an 8-minute head start. Team spokesman, Paul “P-Diddy” Davis quipped “Oh well, it’s all for a good cause, and the beer will certainly taste sweet tonight.”
Our reward for all the blood, sweat and sore knees, tendons and other body parts, was the descent on the other side of the mountain. 11km of smooth, fast and sweeping bends - all the ingredients for the ultimate adrenaline rush!
|After a brief pit stop for a pub lunch in picturesque Arrowtown, the peloton made light work of the last 25km into Queenstown.|