Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 20: St Arnaud to Nelson

Distance: 94.3k
Distance so far: 1,254.9
Speed: 21.3k/h
Runkeeper log: 1

Note: This post refers to the 23rd of February, even though I'm posting it on the 24th. Today is a rest day.

If the hills made yesterday miserable, they made up for it today, with interest. Today's route from St Arnaud to Nelson was largely downhill, with only 3 significant climbs. Most of the downhill was similar in nature to the uphill I experienced yesterday, an incredibly gentle slope that, on the uphill side makes everything a bit more of a drag, but on the downhill side makes riding awesome. Instead of puttering along at 18k/h up a slope so shallow I can't see it, I spent the day cruising along at 25-30k/h, putting in practically no effort as I did so - as my average speed for the day demonstrates.

I started later than usual, since breakfast at the Alpine Lodge starts at 8, and the forecast was for rain to clear in the afternoon, which I wanted to give it plenty of time to do. It was still spitting a bit when I left, but stayed mostly clear as I made the first climb, back to the turnoff to Nelson. Once I was there, the glorious downhill started, and I was able to roar down that section in no time. Pretty soon I had to stop and take off one of my tops, since the day was milder than expected, and the rain absent entirely.

The second major hill hit just as the rain did, so after another stop to change clothes - this time to put on the raincoat - I conquered that climb too. Descending a fairly steep hill afterwards, with rain stinging every exposed bit of skin, was nevertheless still quite fun.

The third climb was much more gradual and sustained, starting with a weird section where the road appears to slope downhill, but actually climbs noticeably. This sort of illusion was somewhat of a theme for the day - often sections that appeared to be uphill were actually flat or even marginally downhill, and sections that appeared to be flat were noticeably downhill. It's weird to gear down for something and then discover you're not actually losing any momentum.

Finally, with all three main climbs out of the way, the rest of the day was glorious downhill, or flat, the whole way. While yesterday's ride seemed like an endless chore, today's was a breeze.

The last 12k or so into Nelson is largely along cycle trails - quite nice, and usually (though not always) well signposted ones. A word of advice for anyone following in my tracks: The "coastal route" is flat as a board, but the "old railway route", somewhat counterintuitively, should be called the "OMG hills!" route.

My mudguards finally arrived in Auckland, so I've directed them to be forwarded to me here in Nelson; I'm also expecting the phone charger I foolishly left in Wellington, and the replacement gear shifter I asked a bike shop to order in. As of today, though, none of those have arrived. Hopefully they arrive tomorrow, because I'm not sure what to do if they haven't.

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