Cyclists warned by cops but event proves successful

BY STAFF REPORTERS
Last updated 13:00 29/03/2010
Renwick friends Richie Alexander and Martin Fox
CLAIRE CONNELL/The Marlborough Express
DECADES AGO: Renwick friends Richie Alexander and Martin Fox donned 20th-century clothing and hopped on their restored one-speed bikes to tackle the Forrest GrapeRide on Saturday.
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DEREK FLYNN
The Road Code stipulates that riders should ride at most two abreast.
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BEN CURRAN
Steve Gurney (purple), Lara Deklee, Kathleen Thomas and Susie MacDonald with Pete Halligan helping the GrapeRide crushing virgins.

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Forrest GrapeRide elite riders were stopped mid-race by the police, who warned them to heed the road rules after cyclists began dominating both lanes of state highways on Saturday.

More than 2300 people took part in the 101-kilometre race circuit linking Forrest Estate in Renwick with Picton and Havelock.

The event has been hailed as a big success, with most involved having a great time, but some cyclists broke the road rules by crossing the centre line and may yet be prosecuted.

Constable Michelle Stagg, of Blenheim, said police received complaints from motorists about cyclist behaviour on State Highway 1 near Spring Creek and State Highway 6 between Havelock and Renwick.

"It's very disappointing," Miss Stagg said.

Co-organiser Duncan Mackenzie said one group of speed bunnies was warned by a representative of Bike New Zealand that they might be disqualified after some crossed the centre line.

"Unfortunately, there is a small element of incredibly arrogant, generally at the top level, cyclists that believe they are above the law.

"If we have any information that we could provide the police to assist in the prosecution of cyclists who are breaking the law, we will do so, no hesitation whatsoever."

He said organisers provided police with information that led to the successful prosecution of one cyclist last year.

Police officers took photos on Saturday showing cyclists riding several abreast and crossing into the opposite lane, Miss Stagg said.

Cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast at most, according to the Road Code.

Last year "a couple" of cyclists were issued with tickets for crossing the centre line, Miss Stagg said.

Eleven people were taken by St John Ambulance to Wairau Hospital for minor to moderate injuries, including face, shoulder and leg wounds, after accidents in the event.

This was six more than in 2009.

A Wairau Hospital spokeswoman said all 11, plus another seven who were brought in in private vehicles, were treated and discharged.

Co-organiser Duncan Mackenzie said it was the nature of cycling that accidents happened, as so many people were in close proximity.

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Mr Mackenzie labelled 2010's GrapeRide the "most successful" yet in terms of rider satisfaction, smooth running and feedback.

CHRISTCHURCH RIDER UNSEATED IN 20-BIKE PILE-UP

If you think cycling 101 kilometres sounds hard, try doing a third of it without a bike seat.

That's exactly the position Glyn Williams found himself in after a 20-bike pile up near the Kenepuru turnoff during the Forrest GrapeRide caused his seat to snap off.

Mr Williams, from Christchurch, fell off his bike after crashing into riders who were already involved in the accident.

Uninjured, he had a few moments when he wondered if he should continue on for the remaining 35km, but decided to "give it a go".

Mr Williams, visibly exhausted after the race, said it was "tough".

"I couldn't avoid [the accident]."

He tried resting on his bike frame when he was going downhill but said it upset the centre of balance too much.

His final time was just over four hours, "disappointing" as he was on on track for three and a half.

"But it's just one of those things."

The keen cyclist has entered in other rides but it was his first Forrest GrapeRide. "Everyone kept telling me it was a great ride and not to miss it."

He said it was a great event and was trying not to let the incident put a damper on the day.

As to whether he will compete again next year, Mr Williams said he was "undecided".

His bike came out relatively unscathed (minus the seat) with a small buckle in the back wheel.

YOUNG RIDER ALREADY ON THE RIGHT TRACK

He may be eight years old, but on Saturday Ryan Tait proved he can cycle with the best.

Ryan, from Porirua, was the youngest competitor to complete the full 101-kilometre race in the Forrest GrapeRide's history.

He entered on a tandem bike with father Greg, and the pair came in just under five hours.

Ryan said he was pretty fit, playing softball, rugby and swimming, but the race was still "hard".

He's been on a bike since he could walk, starting on a tandem bike with his father when he was only three.

Now he's hooked, and enters a few races a year on the bike, including the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

It was the pair's first time in the GrapeRide and they plan to return next year. Ryan said the spectators cheered him on heaps.

"It was brilliant, it's good to be here. There aren't any big hills and it's scenic," said Mr Tait.

Ryan, with sore legs and a tired body, was simply looking forward to a "really big sleep" and coke and pizza for dinner.

"He had to push Dad up on that last hill," Mr Tait joked.

PEDAL POWER A JOINT EFFORT

Timaru's Vicki Royal proved that being partially blind is no obstacle to success. The keen cyclist, along with her partner, Rob Small, took out the Forrest GrapeRide tandem title on Saturday.

The couple say the GrapeRide is perfectly suited to tandem bikes, as there aren't too many steep hills, but they say the second hill out of Picton got them this year.

It was the couple's second time in the race – last year they finished third.

They said it was "awesome" to win the category this year in a time of 3 hours 1 minute, after biking together since 1995.

Regularly entering cycle races, it is their first win in any event.

Mr Small, the front rider, and "bossy boots" according to Ms Royal, steers the bike and controls the gears. Not being able to see while racing can be hard, but the worst part for Ms Royal is not knowing how far it is until the end.

Sometimes Mr Small won't tell her either, she said with a laugh.

"This race is good for all abilities," said Ms Royal.

"It's one of the most beautiful rides in New Zealand," said Mr Small.

GRAPERIDE WOWS WOMEN ON WHEELS GROUP

Saturday's Forrest GrapeRide was the chance for a keen group of Te Puke women to revisit Marlborough and have a fun weekend together.

Friends Linda Fowler, Sally Yuill, Gill Brann and Doreen Smallridge formed the WoW, or Women on Wheels team for the annual event.

It was their first GrapeRide and everyone's first time competing in the South Island.

Donned with matching T-shirts, the four split into two teams, with two riders completing the first part, and the other two racing to the finish.

And their vote on the GrapeRide?

A unanimous "awesome".

The team also managed a time of under five hours, which they were very pleased with.

Some of the women had come down last year as spectators when their husbands competed, and when they returned to Te Puke decided to give it a go.

This year, the women's husbands entered in the individual category.

All eight competitors had been to Marlborough before on holiday and the wives were eager to return to sample the wine and have a sociable weekend.

Mrs Brann commented how impressive the safety was during the event and on the large number of support vehicles on hand to help out.

Mrs Smallridge said everyone had a "great day" and they planned to return next year.

Plans for Saturday night included a "barbecue and a few wines", she said.

ONE-SPEED RIDE ONE MOTHER OF A MSSION

As if cycling two laps (202km) during the Forrest GrapeRide on a one-speed bike wasn't bad enough, Blenheim's JJ Payne suffered a bad bout of cramp in the middle of it.

Mr Payne has a proper cycling bike but decided against using it for the GrapeRide, as he was after a bit of a challenge.

And a challenge he got, as it took him seven hours, 40 minutes to complete the course.

Met with a cold beer at the finish line, presented by wife Corinne, Mr Payne said the first lap went "all right" but at the bottom of the Picton Elevation on the second lap, he got bad cramp.

"It's an easy enough ride, but today it was the cramp and the heat that got me."

Mr Payne entered the magnum section, which involves two laps of the course, kicking off at 6am.

He said he had no qualms about doing the GrapeRide next year but said he might consider using gears next time.

"I was hoping for under seven [hours] but I wasn't banging on getting cramp."

He had plans to eventually enter it with his nine-year-old daughter, Rosie.

CLASSY 50s STYLE FIND WAY IN GRAPERIDE

Dressed in 1950s wool and tweed clothing, fake moustaches, and one-speed authentic bikes, Renwick's Richie Alexander and Martin Fox were prepared to take on the world.

Well, the 101km Forrest GrapeRide course anyway.

Mr Alexander and Mr Fox entered the cycling event dressed in authentic 20th-century attire and pedalling restored bikes as a "challenge" and for fun.

The Air New Zealand pilots had spent winter renovating their bikes in time for the GrapeRide – the bikes' official first race.

Mr Alexander, dressed in wool pants, jacket and socks, suspenders, a tie and a tweed hat – plus helmet – finished first in just under four hours, with Mr Fox coming in not far behind.

Mr Alexander had spent about a month over winter renovating his 60-year-old Raleigh Gazelle bike, now complete with a leather seat, basket, bell and new tyres.

"It's an awesome event, everyone was really nice and supportive," he said.

Mr Fox, wearing an entire wool outfit, including long wool socks and a stick-on moustache, had spent eight months doing up his bike for the GrapeRide.

It was frustrating going downhill because he could not change down a gear, so the pedals were turning incredibly fast, he said.

"But I loved it. The hills were actually easier than I expected."

The pair admit they are both "pretty fit" but did find it hard work and incredibly hot in their outfits.

They would "most likely" enter again.

Mr Fox's sister, Amy, also dressed up in an old-style dress and was on a restored bike with flowers in the front basket.

JUICY VAT FULL OF "VIRGINS"

A countdown, a squeal of delight and a bellyflop which sent grape skins flying everywhere signalled the end of the Forrest GrapeRide for Roseanna Gamlen-Greene.

At the end of the event every year, 100 GrapeRide "virgins" are chosen for the traditional grape crushing, in which they jump into a large vat of pinot noir grapes.

The grape juice is then turned into wine, a bottle of which is given to entrants at the next year's GrapeRide.

Seventeen-year-old Miss Gamlen-Greene travelled from Christchurch for the event after being pressured into it by family and friends, something she later thanked them for.

Miss Gamlen-Greene said she was simply "happy" after it, though her body was not.

She said the 101 kilometre course took her about four hours to complete which was better than she was expecting.

The teenager said the highlight was the grape crushing.

Fellow GrapeRide virgin Amanda Mortimer was pushed right under by friend Steve Gurney when it was her turn to jump into the vat.

Emerging covered in grapeskins Mrs Mortimer was thankful the grapes were very soft and supportive to jump into.

She said the grape crushing was fun but the real highlight was seeing her husband, Keith, finish his first long competitive ride.

First-time GrapeRider Susan Winterburn, of Palmerston North, said completing the ride was her 40th birthday present to herself, as well as a weekend away from the children. She said the highlight was finishing, followed closely by jumping into the grapes.

The 100 virgins all received T-shirts.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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