After a day off it was hard to get going again, but we're a determined trio well supported by Rene and Denise so at precisely 9.00am we rode out of the hotel carpark turning right onto the road to Cardrona and Queenstown. We stopped briefly (2-minutes max) for a quick drink of electrolytes at the 5 and 12km marks. At 22km we stopped to have our photos taken at the gate of The Cardrona Distillery & Museum, whose fence was lined with hundreds of bras (the display was nicknamed Bradrona) supporting women's breast cancer with a facility to donate, vehicles were constantly stopping to investigate (and hopefully donating).
At the 25km mark we pulled up outside the legendary Cardrona Hotel and popped inside for tea and coffee in the rear garden area. We were easing our way back into riding after a day off and appreciating a slower pace with more regular stops. 20-minutes later we were back on the road headed for the Crown Range summit 14km away. From the time we left Wanaka we were always gradually climbing. Wanaka is 300m above sea level and the Crown Range summit is at 1,076m, so with a 776m difference in gradient it was always going to be testing.
The real moment of truth came around 3km from the summit when the climb became noticeably steeper and there was no respite around every corner. Despite our tiredness we left nothing on the table, all three of us impressively rode every inch of the way to the summit (Virginia was not going to let us guys get one up on her), which at 1,076m is recorded as New Zealand's highest sealed road above sea level. The vista from the top is remarkable and extends through to Lake Wakatipu.
Riding down from the summit in blustery winds was unnerving, requiring your absolute concentration. The descent is incredibly steep in places with many switchbacks and sharp corners and at times the wind was so strong it threatened to topple you from your bike. We kept our hands on the brakes never letting our speed get above 30-35km and it was a relief when we turned right down a gravel road before the bottom to link up with Tobin track (steep off road bike track) that drops you down into Arrowtown.
We enjoyed a much needed, carbohydrate fuelled lunch, at Taste Gibbston Valley located in the main street. It's easy to lose time and focus in Arrowtown but we still had 27km to ride to Queenstown and our gutsy ascent of the Crown Range had definitely emptied our reserves. 30 minutes was all we allowed ourselves before getting back on the bikes heading out through Millbrook Resort and down the famous Christine's Hill (if you're coming the other way it is a daunting hill climb on a loose metal track). We rode the track through to and over the Shotover Bridge then took the Queenstown via Frankton route, which required one more fairly sizable climb.
After passing through the Frankton industrial and commercial area we hooked up with the cycle/walking track that follows the lake edge right around to Queenstown for circa 8km. It is largely flat with a relatively smooth off road surface, which were very welcome conditions for us to complete the ride. One final obligation remained, to climb up a steep road from the lake and it was bloody steep. Way too steep to even consider riding (even if we we're so spent) and none too easy to walk up pushing your bike. Once over the top we turned left, right and left again into Hallenstein Street arriving at our accommodation at the ‘Historic Stone Cottage' at 5pm… a big day manfully and womanfully completed with a rest day tomorrow to look forward to… yeehah.