Mallard pedals 625km gutbuster

SIMON EDWARDS
Last updated 15:42 06/11/2012
HUTMallardweb

Feel the burn: Trevor Mallard grinds his way up towards Arthur’s Pass. Some competitors found it too tough and had to get off and walk but the MP says he somehow stuck it out, ‘‘breathing very, very deeply’’.

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He still has a metal pin in his leg from a nasty cycling accident last year but Trevor Mallard has just completed a marathon pedal that would defeat many riders half his age.

At the beginning of this month the Labour MP for Hutt South, who is 58, rode the 625km Five Passes tour, which includes some horrendous hill climbs. Participants cross, and then re-cross, the South Island's Main Divide in the four day event, which takes in the Rahu, Weka, Lewis, Arthur's and Porters Passes.

''I knew it was going to be tough, and I estimated it about right,'' he said.

Day 3 - at 100km - isn't the longest but is the most punishing.

Riding from Greymouth up into the alps area, riders sweat their way along Otira Gorge and up to Arthur's Pass. The climb averages 12 per cent and peaks at 18 per cent.

To put this into perspective, Wainuiomata Hill Rd, on the steeper Hutt, side is eight per cent.

''In other words the average (gradient up to Arthur's Pass) for over six kilometres is one and a half times the steep part of Wainuiomata Hill,'' he said.

This after a 6am-6pm, Hamner Springs to Greymouth ride the day before.

 ''It was a matter of keeping your legs turning over and breathing very, very deeply.''

Mr Mallard said he has done the three-day Taranaki Tour before ''but it's pretty light compared to this''.

He was competing in the 'D' grade, the lowest of four levels, but managed to claim the leader's yellow jersey after winning the 3.5km 'pro-logue', a warm-up for day 1.  The MP came in one second faster than two riders behind him, with the fourth placegetter another second back - ''so four of us finished within two seconds of each other''.

Nevertheless, that was enough for a Tour de France-type moment up on a podium with the yellow jersey.

The Five Passes scenery was spectacular.  Rest stops were often at laybys where people pull over for picnics and the like.  ''You're often surrounded by mountains with snow on them; it was absolutely wonderful''.

The MP was competing with three other riders from the social SANZ club (named because it was founded by a group of South African and NZ cycling fans) that rides each Saturday from a Thorndon cafe.  In his view, Five Passes is within reach of anyone who can do the round Lake Taupo ride in five to six hours, ''but you'd have to give yourself three to four months' training, especially on hills.

''Doing that distance (625km) over four days was way more than I've done...even the big day (Day 2, 215km) is much more than I've ever done in a single day, much less to have big rides the day before and after.''

Nevertheless, it was ''good fun.

''It's also really good to have an objective like that, something to train for.  In my case I kept quite a lot fitter through the winter that I would have otherwise and there's an enormous sense of achievement when you [complete it].''

After that gutbuster Mr Mallard said it would be interesting do see whether he can notch up a better time when he tackles his seventh Lake Taupo ride at the end of the month.

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