The team of Stephen Bradley, Eugen Stark and Kevin Wilson plus guest Johnny McMillan set a new record for the St James Cycle Way last weekend in a time of 8 hours 42 minutes. This time eclipsed the previous record of 9 hours set about six weeks earlier by the team of Justin Kenward, Sarnim Dean and Sven Herselman. The new record was set in ideal weather and dry under-wheel conditions. It included a side trip to the Ann Hut and heavy traffic on the last 20 k created by 94 students from the University of Canterbury.
The ride was the March outing for the sports riders from the Marlborough Mountain Bike Club. We left Blenheim early Saturday morning, travelled to the Lake Tennyson entrance to the ride via the Rainbow and started riding at 9.45am. Unfortunately two other guests from Christchurch were last minute withdrawals. Maling Pass was gained with relative ease on a four wheel drive track followed by a long downhill which was a bit loose and lumpy in places. The big vista was amazing with tawny browns of the pasture and green beech bush contrasting with the blue sky and snow on the tops.
A side trip was made to Lake Guyon where the reflections were tremendous as were the sandflies. The track then proceeds further down the Waiau Valley on a sprayed out grass track interspersed with some purpose built single track and more four wheel drive tracks. This was to be the case for the rest of the ride. Legs were getting a bit tired by the time we had climbed from the Waiau River up to the Ann Hut at the 41 k mark and where refreshments were taken.
After a spell it was onwards. A short climb over Spur Saddle was followed by a long down-hill stretch on the river terraces. Charlie’s Saddle required a period of pushing the bike after which it was steady but quite rideable trip up the Edwards River to Peter’s Pass. A bit more pushing was followed by a 7k down- hill session on a smooth purpose built track to the St James Homestead and car park.
What else can I say! I could say the rest at the Ann Hut was overnight and we arrived at the St James Homestead at 1.30pm on Sunday but that would spoil the story. The actual ride time for the 80k trip is factual and the total time on the trail was 11 hours. A great back country mountain bike trip, with a few challenges but is recommended.