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My Methven Meander 200 in Christchurch New Zealand
(aka: The Christchurch Shake rattle and Roll 200)

by Gary Baker

After the PAP 1200 in Australia, Sheryl and I spent 10 days car touring north and south of Perth before flying to Melbourne where we were graciously hosted by Hans and Linda Dusink. We loved Melbourne and Sheryl and I rode the popular around the bay (Phillips Bay) ride. It’s a leisurely two day 230km route with a 60 minute ferry ride across the bay entrance. We also attended several Audax Australia club functions and met many fellow rando riders.

At one function we helped stuff club ride schedules when Hans noted there was to be a 200km brevet in N.Z. while we were to be touring there, the Christchurch Methven Meander 200. We (mainly moi) had no desire to go to the South Island. What the hell we made the arrangements and headed to Christchurch where we were hosted by Duncan McDonald (the N.Z. coordinator of the AUS Audax NZ chapter). Thanks Duncan.

Duncan is a ‘bent’ rider. He designed and had his bike built to his specifications. It is a very cool looking machine. The MM 200 was to be a shake down ride for him. We were joined by two other riders: Barry a retired 73 yr. old dentist who rode PBP in 2003 and wanted to give it another shot and Fujii a hulking 44yr old former semi-pro rugby player.

The route would take us west onto the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern NZ Alps and then loop back to the city. By our standards this route was bordering on dead flat. The first 50 km we stayed together . Once out of the city limits the scenery was much like the Fraser Valley. There were other similarities to the F.V....thermal winds. We were riding into morning outflow winds. N.Z. farms are often bordered by high, thick hedges that provided great shelter from the wind. With this protection we averaged 25kph to the first control at the 47km point.

After the control there were more dairy farms (read fewer hedges) and we started to encounter low rollers and crossed one mini coulee that did have a short steep climb back up to the plain. The wind was definitely becoming a factor as well. We were cruising at about 18kph with a much lower average speed. The turn around point was Methven. There we stopped at a delightful pub and had a hearty meal. Due to the rollers Duncan had fallen back and arrived as Barry, Fujii and I were about to leave. It was now 1:30pm with 100km to go. This was starting to look like it was going to be a long ride.

The temperature was now in the high 20s and the outflow winds had switched to very strong onshore winds, and I mean STRONG!!!!!!! The route appeared pancake flat but was oh so slightly down hill the way back to C.C. For about 25km we were afforded some welcome protection by those hedges and the three of us worked together to maintain a steady pace into the wind. Again we started to pass by more dairy farms and we were out in the open. The wind was brutal. Both Fujii and Barry are bigger guys and were holding their own into the wind. I don’t do wind well and have learned the hard way not to fight it but to back off. In doing so Barry and Fujji slowly but surely pulled ahead of me and out of sight.

The actual route was becoming more convoluted and NZ road signs are very sketchy at best. Concentrating on following the route at least took my mind off the *(&^)&_+^ wind. On several occasions when I was stopped puzzling over the route sheet, Barry and Fujji would suddenly appear from behind me. This was the situation at the last control, the village of Lincoln, where we decided to do the final 20km together.

About 2 km out of town I had a mechanical and had to stop. I hollered that I was stopping, but over the howling wind the others didn’t hear me and rode off. When I got going again the gap was about 250m. In this wind I know there was no hope of catching them and resigned myself to riding to the finish alone.

The remaining route in to C.C. was through an area that sustained heavy damage from the Sept. 4 earthquake. Sidewalks were twisted and buckled, curbs smashed, the pavement had these huge bubbles (like bubbling tar) every 20-30 m.

Based on the route terrain, this should have been a relatively easy 200. With the winds it was one of, if not, the hardest 200 I’ve ever done. It was a brute.

Back to the ‘shake and a roll’. As I was riding back to Duncan’s house, there was an earthquake that registered 4.9 on the Richter scale. I didn’t feel it. But while in a deep sleep at 1:34AM that night there was another quake of 4.7. It woke me up. I thought I’d been dreaming that I’d been in an earthquake. I went back to sleep. In the morning Duncan’s son Ty asked me if I’d felt the quake at about 1:30AM. Humm...It wasn’t a dream after all.

Sadly I missed Barry and Fujii at the finish. Duncan rolled in about 45 minutes after me. With any luck we’ll meet again at PBP.


November 20, 2010