Dublin: 13°C Friday 30 July 2021

In the saddle: Peaks and troughs from Flock Hill to Franz Josef

“Arriving at Franz Josef triggered elation not witnessed since Eden Park,” writes Paul Cahill as the IRFU Charitable Trust Cycle Tour of New Zealand rolls on.

Throughout the Rugby World Cup, a group of Irish fans will take part in the official IRFU Charitable Trust Cycle Tour of New Zealand.

Wearing their official jersey - which you can buy here – they’ll criss-cross the country, following the team throughout the tournament.

Paul Cahill checks in with the latest news.

SETTING OFF FROM Flock Hill on the Tuesday was like cycling through a different country.

The surroundings that we were denied vision of the previous day were now revealed to us and we basked in beautiful sunshine and crisp spring air as we faced into the 137km cycle to Hokotika — although, when I say “basked”, I do mean while dressed head to toe in thermal underwear, mid-layers, cycling shirts and hats.

It may be sunny but we’re still in the mountains and it’s still cold! While yesterday’s cycle should have told us a great deal about the not insignificant task ahead of us, the unforeseen extreme conditions made it hard to make a realistic assessment.

Polar bears would have been irked by yesterday’s conditions so today should give us a better insight into what lies ahead.

Peaks and troughs

It’s widely acknowledged that New Zealand and Ireland share a similar geography in certain respects, particularly the plush green landscapes attributable to the generous rainfall.

New Zealand, however, is host to more dramatic environs in terms of the mountains that ultimately saw the Lord of the Rings Trilogy filmed here. While this makes for great viewing from the bike, it also results in what our guide describes as “undulating” roads.

For every quadricep-burning climb, there is a freewheeling descent and vice versa. Much like life, this cycle will be about what the locals describe as “peaks and troughs”.

With an extra 40km in today’s distance, we are all relieved to arrive at lunch at Jackson’s… only to discover that the restaurant is closed, despite our reservation, and the next town is not for another 30km. The term “grin and bear it” sprang to mind when observing tired cyclists reactions to this news.

“Elation not witnessed since Eden Park”

When we finally broke for lunch at a roadside cafe, we were a mere 30km from our final destination and the general consensus seemed to be a quick refuel and plough on to Hokotika.

While I must admit I wasn’t party to the general consensus, I was glad to arrive and put some distance between myself and my over-familiar saddle. Some seriously tired heads at dinner told tale of how we all felt after the two days. Consider us well and truly assessed.

Wednesday’s cycle was similar in distance and surroundings, but with the weather cool and overcast, it was perfect cycling weather and apart from a lengthy enough climb at the aptly named “Mount Hercules”, it was a relatively painless day.

Arriving at Franz Josef triggered elation not witnessed since Eden Park and with the fridge stocked in advance by our sympathetic support team and a day of rest to follow, we soon continued where we left off.

Friday sees us setting off again for Haast with a 20km climb to start us on our way. Peaks and troughs…

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