Napier hosted the Cycling New Zealand Elite Road Nationals this year and what a test it was.
I flew in from Melbourne on Monday with just enough time to be fitted by the Master – Jeff Webb of Avantiplus Waitakere on my borrowed TT bike (thank you – Michael) and after a 7 hour drive spread over Wednesday Thursday there was enough time for a small reccy of the TT course Friday race day. It was great to catch up with an old team mate Daniel Molyneaux who managed to helped me out on Friday.
Also really good to catch up with my old mate Jim Denton who started riding at the same time as me 4-5 years ago and we both raced the Taupo – Rotorua Flyer as our first race. Great to see him bright and chirpy after facing some adversity in the past couple of years. Inspiring bloke!The TT on Friday was a challenging 40km with 2 descent climbs and a couple of kickers around the back. Average race for me for a few reasons but gail force winds didn’t help. I changed my wheel choice a couple of times with the final choice of an 808 on front which was a bad move.
Tried to pace myself and caught first guy just after first climb which was great and I felt like I was in a good rythm. The last climb of lap of the first lap I could see a second rider in front but now it was into a block headwind. I managed to catch that rider on the second lap but was then passed by a flying Tom Scully which meant I had already lost 2 minutes o him. (He did hold the fastest time until the last 2 riders of the day). Tried to keep him in sight then dropped chain on last climb. No excuse as I was already down by too much at that stage. Overall I felt good but just wasn’t feeling as efficient as normal and struggled with big dish up the front having to ‘catch the wheel’ a couple of times.A day R&R followed including a ride on the road course to see what hills were involved and get my head around it.
Sunday, race day, we woke to howling winds and sun, it was going to be a tough day in the saddle.
Break was the place to be on the day but I didn’t want to spend too much energy until the end of the race and as there weren’t many teams it just turned into a race of attrition. When the break formed no one would really chase it so you had to make your own way across or stay in the bunch. Coming back into town the cross winds split the field and I was with the main bunch of 20 which was falling back off.
The town section has us doing laps of Napier to finish off the race and Hospital hill was a steep kicker with a good crowd which we had to negotiate more times than I enjoyed. This is where the bunch split into 2 and I managed to get back on after the hill before the head wind section, block head wind. Followed a couple of the big hitters through next section but wasn’t keen on taking a turn with a team mate up the road. Next time up the hill the bunch split again and again managed to get back on but the next time up it really split as they were trying to hit it every time. There was no getting back on again so I ended up riding a couple of laps by myself enjoying the atmosphere and amazing crowds before being pulled out with the rest so I spent the rest of the afternoon watching my new team mate ride like a boss.A big bonus for me was seeing my new team mate Jason Christie (read his race report) taking the overall win for the day with a lone break 30k from the end. It is going to be a real privilege riding in the team of the silver fern this year.