Tuesday, 2 November 2010

5 passes day 1

425 miles as 11 stages in 5 days, over 5 passes and some of the best scenery and great company there's going to be a lot to say. The following entires are written after the event, but broken into seperate posts - otherwise it'd be too daunting to read any of it!
Pictures will not be posted immediately, but hopefully will follow soon.

5.00 am: Riders arrive, drop off bags, get ready for start with a much needed strong coffee in Coffee Culture, who had opened up at 5am for us!
6:00 am: Start with small time gap between grades as a grizzly day dawns on Christchurch, we ride north out of the city along the uninspiring roads to Amberly. We await the predicted rains, which are good enough to hold off for most of the morning. A neutral start and slightly wobbly bunch as we get used to one another's strengths, stability and pace, the road passes quickly and before we know it we're stopping for snacks in Ashley. Just another 20km until the next refreshment break, but this is the first racing Stage and includes a Sprint. I've been hanging quite happily with the B Grade men up to now, but with several organized teams riding in our group it's not long before the pace surges take their toll and I'm out the back before the Sprint. The race is really well organized with 2km and 500m markers at teh road side, photographers, time keepers and support crew at the sprint finish and timing mats at stage finishes (no sprinting over the 2m wide mats). More Neutral riding, and more chance to chat to other riders, and more refreshments half an hour later at Waipara. Its a pretty shitty day by now so all of these stops are making teh faster riders prety cold. We do have access to our gear bags at most of the stops, though, and the support crew have them all laid out or us to find easily, then pack them up after we've moved off. Tomorrow i'll be putting a lot more warm clothing in that bag! Stage one finishes with a 40km open stage to Culverdon, including a KOM over the Weka Pass. Steven and I had ridden this route previously but i couldn't recall any sort of a pass...and i pretty much failed to notice it this time either - the road just gets a bit lumpy for a while! But we do gain some altitude along the way and this time i loose the bunch quite soon due to the rolling terrain. Its this sort of constant undulations that make it hard for weaker riders to stay with a more powerful group. The 1-2min surges in power that are required to maintain speed over a rise are hardest for those at the back of the bunch, since they are forced into braking close to the bottom of the rise (as the front of the group starts the climb) and then have to accelerate close to the top because the front of the pack is cruising down hill already....so this stage is a solo, wet and cold bit of time spent on my aero bars, which come in very handy, until i finally make contact with a nice guy i've had in my sights up ahead who's wheel i sit on for about 15km into the wind to lunch. We're all totally soaked and so very happy that the crew have got a hot coffee for us!

Stage 2: 40 km Culverden to Hanmer Springs - initially riding neutral, the main event of the day is the TTT - team time trial. I'm riding in Team Scotty Brown, one of the sponsor teams with a good chance of taking the team prize. We have Richard and Dave Dawson - a father and son team: Richard is a teenager who has been cycle racing for a few years (as a junior), gaining strength and is now a very handy cyclist in the senior races. His dad, Dave is also coached by Scott Molina and was recently racing in Kona. Complimented by Steven Lord (aka TGV/the Pain Train), that's a team of 3 strong riders. I'm the 4th member - the weak link (although we'll see which team member will be riding in yellow as the tour gets underway ;o)). TTT times are taken off the 3rd (rear) wheel, the 4th member may be dropped. I was looking forward to this event, having competed in several 2 -ups in the past and spent many training rides glued to the back of the TVG I was looking forward to a fast paced ride with my team for as long as i could hang on, but to my disappointment was dropped without having even contributed a single pedal stroke due to a bungled clipping in on the line. oh well, 7km doesn't take all that long even solo. We finished up in Hamner Springs, the very luxurious Heritage Hotel where we enjoyed a BBQ and several beers before dinner and a movie on Sky. Just like real Tour riders, I'm sure.

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