Special Event - November 2012

(Yet again nothing goes to plan)

Tragedy strikes on the Weds before the race as Sandra, my strong and talented cycling buddy, pulls out as tandem stoker (back peddler) due to a bad bout of the flu.

I frantically ring round to convince someone they would love to cycle 160kmwith me in 2 days’ time. Strangely, few people answer (what’s up with caller ID?) and those that do give an emphatic no!

I am getting pretty desperate; Next though is Mere Roberts and yes she’s home and yes she’s interested. "If my fat, unfit brother in law can do it with little training then so could I".

Fantastic, a fellow adventurer and she’s fit being in training for the Paris marathon. "Have you been on a tandem before?" "No." "Have you used clip on pedals before?" "No." "Do you know how to stand up on a bike?" "No." "Can you ride a bike?" (Maybe this should have been my first question). "Yes - an exercycle at the gym." "Oh" "Do you use a road bike?" "Yes, I cycle from Birkenhead to Browns Bay." "Ok you’ll do, we leave tomorrow 2pm. No practise, I’m working, see you then."

Brent offers to be our support in Taupo and drives Zimmer the campervan. (Maybe out of relief at not being pressured to cycle, also I think he’s interested to see how two really crazy women cope.)

After registering Fri night, we ride for 15min in the car park. Amazingly Mere fits my clip on shoes and after a wobble or two, we practise standing up on a quiet lower road. This is my third time ever as front tandem rider, as prior to Max’s death I had always been stoker.

Carol & Mere setting off.

Unlike other years of strong side winds, rain, freezing cold and slippery roads, the weather was perfect, with a gentle cool breeze. We were near the front with the other tandems and started without incident. A few metres up the road though we ground to a halt as Mere’s shoe lace got caught in the gears. Lace well tucked away and off again to be continuously passed by the guns for several hours. Our cycling was steady and we quickly became confident, working well together. Luckily I have a very loud voice and Mere followed all instructions beautifully.

As with my bus driving, the occasional shoddy gear change was my fault entirely. Mere and I frequently stood up, which is essential in long races to stretch leg muscles and ease potential sore bums. Apart from the tangled shoe lace at the start, and a very quick drink refill, our ride was continuous with no walking or loo stops. Also the elastic of my knickers caught a tender spot (ring me if you need more details) causing some discomfort. Overall the tandem ride was very smooth. A few minutes to the end and I call to stand up in the finish shoot. Why asks Mere, is it for safety? No I yell, it’s for the glory! So we rocket in, careful not to squash any of the heart riders. We finish in 7hrs 21m, coming first in our division of Tandem Women over 45yrs. . My eighth Round Taupo Bike Race, fifth on the tandem and obviously Mere’s first (I am 51, Mere is 67- yes read that correctly Mere is an OAP of 67). My gratitude and amazement towards Mere, who had only ever cycled 14km in one go before, is limitless. Thank you for being mad enough and fit enough to join me, succeeding beyond my wildest dreams in the most enjoyable Taupo race I have done yet.

Riders: Carol Exton (scribe), Mere Roberts