Wednesday, 3 November 2010

5 passes day 2

This is a long day, with an early start - 3 stages, 2 KOM, 3 sprints and 214km total riding to Greymouth, so the mood is a little less aggressive as we ride the first neutral section. Once the Stage started and pace picked up, rather than riding hard over the undulating terrain as the bunch geared up getting their team mates in position for the sprint at 49km, I dropped back for a spell on my TT bars. I was soon caught by Mary Jones, the other B-grade woman, and Kim, one of the guys from our grade who is riding with 6 weeks notice after a long spell off the bike with a broken wrist. We enjoyed a rather leisurely social ride enjoying the improved weather and great scenery. Until the sprint, which i admit that i picked my pace up a little for a bit of fun, when thinking i'd left the others a long way back after a hard 400m effort Mary's front wheel comes into view about 2 seconds before the line! No time to respond, it was just luck that she did not 'steal' that from me. She apologized for being sneaky, but i was really pleased that she was showing some competitiveness - and i'd been foolish to underestimate her. That wasn't going to be happening again. The three of use resumed our pleasant riding and conversation as we approached Lewis pass. Keen to get my own back on this competition, when the road started tipping upwards, i made a little effort to get up the road. which then tipped downwards a bit , before more up....were we on the climb or what?? lacking local knowledge and having already put too much distance on the others to wait for them, I rode on with an eye over my shoulder to the top, and rolled into Springs junction a little ahead of my competition for our morning break. There was a small KOM at Rahu's Saddle, marking the end of the 4th stage, after which I made use of a group that i'd caught, or who had caught me and sat in for a few km enjoying the warm day and new surroundings. Frequently i found myself working to the front of the group, tiring of the uneven pace and concentration required in the middle on the bunch, so in the end did several lengthy 'pulls' on the front. keeping a steady effort this position allowed me to rest and relax my shoulders a bit in my aero bars ( much more comfortable on the TT geometry that i ride) and get a good view of the scenery! As we pulled into the lunch stop at Reefton on a steep slope to the domain, i was caught off-balance and made an emergency dismount onto my arse and elbow as i swerved my bike into a heap of gravel to avoid the riders slowing sharply ahead of me. a bit of a hole there now but more damage to my kudos with such a clumsy fall. in my defense, surely the distracting smell of BBQ chicken that they support crew were cooking up was an obviously dangerous distraction?

Post lunch of BBQ chicken sandwiches and muffins (i never want to go home!), stage 5 was net downhill, but apparently a long and somewhat dull grind into a headwind all the way to Greymouth. The first 30km of this ride was neutral, so easy for me to sit in with the B grade until a drink stop at Ikamatua (these frequent drinks were well needed toady with temperatures reaching into the 30s) and teh 'open' racing to Greymouth. This was probably the hardest work of the trip for me ( aside form the climbs) as i hung in there desperate not to be dropped and face the remaining 50k riding into that headwind under my own power. I'm using a Powertap now, and can tell you that the draft of even one other reasonably sized rider can save me 100W in a stiff headwind - so well worth sucking up the hard surges required to stay in this group for that benefit. not to mention the moral support - it's been a long day for all of us! There was a sprint at 189km, which is where the pace picked up beyond my tolerance levels and i did have 15km then to ride solo into town. That sure felt like a long schlep, but it was with huge satisfaction that I arrived to meet the others at Greymouth. Another plush hotel, a lovely meal and a much needed massage before bed.
I'm still wearing yellow, green and the polka dot -though not all at once. There has been a bit of mocking from a few people about the women getting to 'choose their jerseys to match their handbags', whilst the men are fighting hard for their honours. I can't dispute that it feels a little hollow with only two of us in the running, but taking the piss or belittling our achievements like this is hardly going to help encourage women into competition, is it? So, whereas if there had been 20 women to beat i'd be feeling proud, with no disrespect to Mary, tonight it feels a bit worthless.

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