Finish line looms like gates of heaven in REV
On Saturday morning at 9am I began my 100km cycling challenge in humid, overcast conditions.
As I rolled over the starting blocks of the Avantidrome REV 100km cycle classic I was immediately amazed at the pace that was set - these guys were flying out of the gates. I expected a conservative cruise out through Cambridge into the hilliest parts of the course to warm up, but it seems everyone forgot about gears two, three and four and jumped straight into fifth.
In hindsight, riding the course last week was the best thing I could have done. I was aware of the course and what to expect.
French Pass is the biggest climb of the morning but I actually felt pretty good heading up there. I even managed to pass quite a few people which was pretty satisfying.
Around 20km into the race the field had stretched out and myself and Scott Raynes of Avantiplus Cycology - who was riding with me - found ourselves in quite a handy group of around 25 riders. I struggled initially to hold on but I changed my tactics and became much more aggressive on the climbs, allowing me the few seconds I needed in order to stay with the group.
Around the 50km mark I had something happen to me that I hadn't considered before. I was stung by a bee. My cycling top was open and a bee must have been caught in there and decided to make its presence felt. On the good side, I am not allergic to bees and the pain of the sting was so bad that I didn't really notice that pain in my legs or back.
Turning into Scotsman Valley was personally really satisfying. I had felt that I had broken the back of the course in a fast group and I was on track to beat the four-hour mark. The hills leading up to the main Scotsman Valley climb saw us lose a few more from our bunch but I was still feeling pretty good, despite riding for two-and-a-half hours by then.
Coming into Tauwhare I got excited, seeing my supporters were all there waiting for me. My wife and family were there and my little two-year-old son was holding up a "Go Daddy Go" sign. It was just the boost I needed to get me through the last 20km.
By this stage I was absolutely buggered. We were still going at a good clip but I had just finished my water and was dying for a drink. Heading into the home straight, Scott and I managed to overtake some of the riders in our group which was really satisfying. Scott said that this part of the race was called the Pain Cage (or something like that - I wasn't listening too much by now) and every part of my body was screaming.
As the finish gantry appeared in the distance like the gates of heaven, I started to feel really proud of what I had achieved. From novice to cyclist in five weeks.
We crossed the line and Scott looked over and told me our time - 3 hours 27 minutes.
I had well and truly blown my goal time out of the water. As I hopped off the bike I had absolutely nothing, zip, nada, zilch in the tank. I was still in disbelief about my time, as I seriously had no idea of how I hung on for so long. But then I guess that is what cycling is all about - hanging out in extreme pain for as long as possible.
* Steve Meertens is digital manager for Fairfax Media in the Waikato region