Rough ride spurs seal appeal
Six weeks out from the Forrest GrapeRide cycling event, organisers are looking for a sponsor to pay for the final three kilometres of the Tuamarina Track to be sealed.
The 42-kilometre GrapeRide "taster" route includes 7km on the Tuamarina Track, but 3km of the road is not sealed.
The taster event is for cyclists not keen on cycling the GrapeRide's full 101km course from Forrest winery near Renwick and back through Picton and Havelock.
Forrest winery owner and ride organiser Brigid Forrest said entrants in the first taster event last year had said they would feel safer and enjoy the course more if the 3km stretch of road were sealed. "It's quite rough, corrugated and banked the wrong way, like most New Zealand roads," she said. "I end up pushing my road bike through that section, because there are some deep banks of gravel and my road-bike tyres can't handle it."
However, any sponsors would need deep pockets. Marlborough Roads manager Frank Porter said it costs more than $100,000 to seal one kilometre of road.
The Marlborough District Council had not allocated funding for the road to be sealed in the 2012-2013 annual plan.
The rest of the road had been sealed for a long time.
Event organiser Pete Halligan said sealing the road would reduce the dust pollution and would benefit all road users including motorists, cyclists and residents.
"There's only a few short weeks until the GrapeRide, and we know it's a bit of a push, but we'd like to think we're doing our best to get it sealed in time."
The section of unsealed road would be graded and swept if it was not sealed in time for the event, he said.
Mr Halligan said a cheaper option could be to seal a section wide enough for cyclists, although he had not discussed whether that would be possible.
The GrapeRide is in its ninth year and attracts 2500 riders from around the country. Mrs Forrest said ticket sales were strong, with about 80 per cent already sold.
She intends to use her mountain bike for the "taster" ride, if the road is not sealed in time.
"The only good thing about the gravel is if you can't hear the trucks coming, you can sure see the dust which tells you they're coming."
A keen cyclist, Mrs Forrest would like to see more cycling tracks around the region.
"I realise money is short, but I would love to see areas of the Omaka and Wairau Rivers developed for cycling."