Short and brutally steep, on exhausted legs, Stage 5 will be a major physical and psychological hurdle on the trail to Val de Vie.
In the past stages like these have been dubbed play days, but there is little playful about this intense test. The climbing starts virtually instantaneously.
Leaving Wellington, the only way is uphill on the lengthy Hawequa Climb. It is never steep, but rather a slow, leg-sapping grind. The descent from the summit starts on dusty dual track, before slipping into the Brooklyn Bridge singletrack.
Singletrack climbs and descents blur into one vision of agony and ecstasy thereafter. Up Seven Peaks, down Cool Runnings, up Aap d’Huez into Full Monty – the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain – and a further black diamond, black route loop. The fun, games, climbing and, in all likelihood, suffering are not quite over yet.
Riders must battle home for very hard-earned rest and recovery ahead of a big weekend of riding.