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Isobel Stout takes on the GrapeRide

I’ve not ridden the full distance at the Graperide before but I have ridden the shorter Taster distance and really like the course. I am building up for Le Race and the timing of the event this year is perfect as a step on the way to Akaroa.
The drive up to Blenheim is tedious with all the road works but let’s face it, it’s also very beautiful. Just take you time folks and I can highly recommend a delicious French bakery in Murchison!
For those who haven’t done the Graperide before the event doubles as the UCI qualifier for the world masters road race championship so there are heaps of riders of all ages. The scenic course attracts all abilities and all types of bikes too with special categories for tandems and e-bikes. After the ride the grounds of Forrest Estate winery fill up with tired, hungry and thirsty finishers so there’s lots of food trailers, coffee machines and the odd wine/beer to be sampled. Just before the prizegiving is the grape stomp, with which next year’s returnees will be greeted with a bottle of the results. Best ever incentive for coming back for another ride around Marlborough I can think of!
The full course heads from Renwick to Blenheim, turns left onto SH1 and on to Picton. There’s a steady climb into Picton that’s rewarded with a smooth downhill into town. I may have broken the 50km speed limit somewhat at that point but in my defence I was simply sitting in the bunch!
From Picton it’s the Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock, up and downs, loads of bends, terrific views and best of all a jolly nice coffee stop in Momorangi. You can elect when you enter the event to take advantage of this ‘time out’ from the race and take as long as you like to refresh and refuel before taking off again. Yes, that means the clock stops for you! Very civilized for the cyclist enjoying the challenge of the road and not really racing. I highly recommend it.
It’s typical to get a tailwind home from Havelock to Renwick but this year proved an exception and the final 25km or so was into the wind and a bit of a struggle towards the end. With about 15km to go I hooked up with a lovely rider from the Onslow Tar Babies team and we took turns leading and swearing (which helps lots!) and together we pushed through so I finished 4 mins over 4 hours. I think I won the Women’s Cancer Rider event but the results were a bit mangled by folk not starting in the group they said they would.
At this point I’ll put in a bit of support for the poor organisers who do their best to get the results out promptly.
As this event has races within races it stuffs up the results no end if you don’t stick to your correct starting group.
For me the highlights of this event are the sublime views of the Sounds, the bush birdsong, and relaxing on the grass back at Forrest Estate with fellow cyclists and swapping tales in the sunshine.
Roll on next year and the bottle of Rose promised!