Graperide is the South Island's largest fun ride. I first rode it nine years ago (I bought the shirt with 2006 printed on it) as a relative cycling greenhorn. My new riding and wine-drinking buddy, Pete Evans, said it sounded like us, as it starts and finishes at a winery and they give you free wine!! I came 171st (female) in a time of 3:45:59, and was hooked. Pete and I have trekked South each year since, with ever decreasing times for both of us, but still pretty average. Then, lured by the possibility of winning even more wine, I joined up with fellow 60/40 riders Sue Dore and Gill Donald to make a "standard team" and things got interesting.

In 2013 we had very modest expectations, but Gill and I "team-rode", which was a totally new experience for me. With Sue, we were stoked and amazed to win first place in the female team category (and claim the wine!). The next year was even better. After the three of us rode personal bests, we were even more eager, and sat closer to the stage, ready to claim our prizes. What made the 2014 win even more sweet was that Sue was only a month out of cancer treatment. Her courage and positivity throughout was a ride which in itself inspired Gill and I more than words can say. We had trained our buns off, we wanted that win so much, for Sue. And all through her treatment, we would not let her forget she was a part of our team, and she was riding Graperide with us! Tears of joy on the finish line were evidence of how much that ride meant, to us all.

So, in the face of rumours of a rival team (from our own club, no less!), and to aim for the significant 3-peat victory, we increased the training and weight loss regimes in preparation. Surely we couldn't strike three times in a row? Three sub-3s was the goal. Good results at Taupo and some encouraging lead up rides showed we were all in good form. Six weeks out, Sue was flying. Then she got sick. A super-slim Gill was flying a few weeks out, then she also came down with bugs. (Which just proves that children should be avoided, if at all possible). I signed up for Tour of Northland with Pete. Loved it, but the legs were tired. Could I recover in time?

The day dawned on Graperide 2015, the start line jitters held in check by an awesome support crew, including fellow riders Adam Johnston and Pete. I chucked my lot in with group 1, with Adam, and was just hoping not to get dropped before Picton. Sue and Gill set off with the next group, with Pete. As usual, it was a super-fast ride down to Picton and hard to stay with the bunch. Then into the hills - wet and greasy this year - before the blat home from Havelock. Each bunch had a few 'workers' and loads of wheel suckers. I'm proud to say we were all in the worker category, although Adam did way more than his fair share in my bunch!

I crossed the line shortly after Adam. Gill wasn't far behind, hooting and hollering with the joy of breaking the 3-hour barrier. But where was Sue? We soon found out that Paul Ward had seen her injured on the descent into Havelock. A phonecall reassured us she was okay, but dazed and not allowed to finish. She had been taken out by another rider, through no fault of her own. However, with suspected concussion, the officials took her bike off her! We sadly let them know that Sue, and therefore the Grape Expectations team, was a DNF. Disappointment took hold of us. Ironically, I had been the fastest female home overall, but there would be no reward (beyond Gill posting our individual successes on Facebook that is!), because when you're part of a team, you aren't recognised in the individual placings.

So the prize giving began and we just chatted through it, not paying much attention. Consoling wines and beers all afternoon and sitting at the back have that effect! We had become "those people". Then we heard "...and first is Grape Expectations!" WHAT!? Surely not? Gill and I sprinted up - almost to tell them they were wrong, while encouraging the injured Sue to run faster, in case it was correct! Up the stairs and onto the stage, still querying the judges... Are you sure?? "Yes," they said, "Now hurry up, you're holding up the prize giving!!" And so it was. Sue had been given an estimated finishing time. Very fair we thought and accepted our medals (and wine).

The purpose of writing this is to encourage others - particularly women - to get out and ride. Especially in the fun ride events, and to do so with mates because they give you a shared goal. We shouldn't leave all the fun to the men, and sadly there are very few women lining up with us. Yes, you have to wear Lycra, no make-up, sweat and snot, and you will have helmet hair. Get over it and paint your nails!! A peleton is a wonderful expression of teamwork, camaraderie and competition in equal measure. But the journey for Sue, Gill and I over the past three years has been so much more. We've stepped up in fitness, skills, confidence, results, joined - and been supported by - a wonderful community of fellow cyclists, and most importantly, become firm lifelong friends.

Expectations much, MUCH more than fulfilled.


#1 Phil M 2015-04-07 15:08
Great write up Janice and congrats on the threepeat
#2 Mike p 2015-04-07 20:28
Big Congrats Ladies. Fantastic result!
#3 Andrew M 2015-04-07 22:06
What a wonderful story - very inspiring! Huge congratulations to the three of you!
#4 Rick field 2015-04-09 08:30
Awesome the three of you
#5 amanda ashcroft 2015-04-09 20:50
Love reading this, beautiful story!
Totally brilliant x
#6 The Grape Gonzo 2015-04-13 17:20
It was nice to see Janice share 'the riders perspective' from a person of her level (right up there!) of fitness and training. I do not get to hear the stories as a rule unless someone takes the time to do this. It is generally in the form of not being very happy with the event but they are few and far between for us as a rule! It is really nice to know that a simple and well executed idea means so much to so many. It is even more humbling to know of the amazing emotions and outcomes that are a consequence of this also. People do the event for a host of different reasons and Janice's story is one of many I am sure but a very positive one that I hope also inspires others to give it a go!
It is made easier for our team that we live in marvelous Marlborough. Its amazing features of landscape to world class wine brands such as Forrest Wines holds the region in such high regard making it so much easier to plan for a fun day out for prospective cycling nut cases.

Members please login to post comments