All the ingredients for a perfect GrapeRide

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 12:30 04/04/2011

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The Forrest GrapeRide was like a cake baked to perfection, race organiser Pete Halligan says.

Although it was a chilly, dark Friday night for the riders who took on the challenge of the 505km Ultimate GrapeRide – five laps of the course – Marlborough turned on a scorching day with no wind for the thousands of cyclists and supporters on Saturday.

From an overnight low of about 4 degrees Celsius on Friday night, the day blossomed into a balmy 24 degrees.

That was made much stickier after 100 GrapeRide virgins dipped, crushed and cannonballed three tonnes of pinot noir, sending grapes, juice and screams flying in all directions.

Mr Halligan said the event was magnificent and a picture-perfect showcase for Marlborough with the wine, vineyards and Marlborough Sounds views.

"It's like making a cake: if you have lovely ingredients it's going to turn out really well and we cooked it really well in that wonderful Marlborough sun."

Competitors flocked to Marlborough from out of town – only 150 Marlborough riders were in the field of about 2100.

One of the Marlborough riders was Ray Dunstan, owner of Cycle World in Blenheim.

He wasn't at the front of the Speed Bunnies race, but he was happy with the day as he enjoyed a beer in the afternoon sun at Forrest Wines estate.

It was his second GrapeRide, the first being back in 2008.

In the last couple of years he ran a stall and helped with fixing bike faults at the event.

The GrapeRide consistently sees half of the field return for the following year and also has more of an even mix of men and women than other cycling events.

The wine region theme of the event helps attract the mix.

The accident ratio was the lowest ever this year with the worst being a broken arm after a tumble at The Elevation, near Picton. "The others were more broken bikes than broken people," Mr Dunstan said.

Former Olympian and Ultimate GrapeRide winner Robin Reid was awarded the most inspirational GrapeRider of the year.

He was a great role model for young riders and was such a humble champion, Mr Halligan said.

"He rode the five-lapper for no other reason than to raise money for the [Christchurch] earthquake fund and not only did he do it, but he smashed the old record that we thought would never be beaten by about an hour."

Thousands of dollars of bikes, accessories and travel were won from spot prizes. There was a slight hiccup with a 30-minute power outage at the venue after lunch; however, a diesel generator was brought in until it was fixed.

Many competitors had told him that the volunteer race marshalls were the best in New Zealand, giving plenty of encouragement and aid to the riders, Mr Halligan said. Editorial, editor's blog, p6

More stories, pictures p9, 14 ,15

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- The Marlborough Express

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