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Tour of New Zealand, part 2

Tour of New Zealand rest day! This is where it gets really messy. This is the day we should have been travelling. Instead of rushing to catch a plane, and shortening stage 4, we should have stayed in Christchurch or Tekapo. The next morning we should have flown to Rotorua.

Instead, we find ourselves in Rotorua doing nothing. We were to wait for our bikes until 6 pm. By which time we were having dinner. At this point, I’m going to suggest that everyone back up their photos. Long story and I can’t be bothered writing about it.

So we fucked about on the Luge and gondola, walked into town, and had food and coffee. The luge, if you’ve not been to Rotovegas and played on the luge, I suggest you do it at any chance you have. It’s bloody good fun.

The next day, Stage 5 (really stage 4, but they counted the rest day as a stage!) we drove, or Richard did, for 2 hours to Te Kuiti. Whilst driving some of the course we were able to point out the hazards. The hazards proved my undoing. Even though I’d help point out the bridge that would end my chance of a quick stage.

Stage 5

Stage 5 from Te Kuiti to Taumarunui. A relatively short stage of 83km. The first 20km is uphill heading towards Bennydale. From there on in it’s rolling, a short 2km uphill, and then downhill and flat to the end.

We had a great group at the start. We rolled and worked with Team Honda, led by Graham and Huib. We’d already decided that due to the rain that we’d take it relatively easy.

We quickly dropped the rest of group 2 and were now down to 12 or so riders. That quickly became 20, as we were caught by the fast guys of group 3. My legs were feeling strong. I was riding second wheel just as we entered the bridge. I hit a rut, nottle went flying, and then I heard a loud pop. From that point onwards I shouted that I had a puncture. I tried to steer my bike off the road safely. I didn’t want to be that fucker that took everyone down with me. No, my water bottle did that for me. Fortunately, no one suffered as a consequence.

I cam to a halt. All safe. I checked my rim. All good. I went to check for my water bottle. It must have gone over the edge of the bridge. No luck, and no one around to get water from. I felt despondent. It took a while for me to change my tube. I then got my head out of the pissed off mentality and decided to get back into it.

I jumped on and chased hard. I had in my mind that I may be able to catch my group. I actually believe I could. That’s what drove me. I chased hard. A solo time trial for 60km with no water. What could possibly go wrong? Well, nothing went wrong. With 10km to go the camera went past filming. I asked if they had some water. I was then handed a 1/3 full bidon. Phew!

With 10km to go and some water onboard, I was able to continue my push to the finish line. I can’t really tell you too much about the scenery, I was too busy looking down chewing tarmac. I crossed the line 11 minutes down on Kieran and Dan. So after 5 or 6 minutes fixing my puncture and looking for my water bottle, I only really lost 5 minutes on the road. That made me happy.

The Time Trial from National Park to the Grand Chateau was cancelled due to rain. A good decision in hindsight.

We drove from Taumarunui to the Chateau. Lounged at the Chateau, and enjoyed espresso Martinis, or at least some of us did. We then dined and listened to some of the charities speak about what they had been doing, and why this event was so important to them.

Petra Baghust from Tearfund was by far the most impressive speaker. This isn’t to say that the charity that she spoke on behalf of was/is more important, just that the way in which she delivered her message was beautiful.

Petra spoke in Te Reo, followed by English. It impressed me, and the audience by the look of their faces. It was also impressive for overseas visitors to hear NZ’s national tongue being spoken so beautifully. A hat tip to Petra, I never for one minute thought that she could speak Te Reo, but she knocked our socks off.

Stage 7

Stage 7 was to be split into two stages, but end up just one from The Grand Chateau to Ranana. We woke up to a chilly 2ÂșC, and rain. We then proceeded to miss our start time. We just saw them disappearing down the hill. A rush to get ready saw us just roll straight from the Chateau’s front door and down the Bruce road.

A hurried chase in the pissing cold rain. We finally managed to catch Honda and Co before the National park turning. We were straight into the thick of it. We never missed a turn despite such a frantic and full gas pursuit.

Our group now had 10 solid riders. We were soon caught by the speedsters of group 3. They guys from Meadowbank were great. They were welcome company. I soon found myself on the edge of my comfort zone. We were chain ganging it along state highway 4 at 50kph battling a headwind and driving rain.

We made a right turn into Raetihi. It appeared as if everyone just sat up, and that I didn’t get the message. For a while, I continued alone. Over the next few KMs I thought I just may be able to go solo. That was short lived. I was soon swallowed up by the bunch.

We soon came to our first hill. A steady 2km rise at 6%. Nothing major, but it did split the bunch. I was 3rd up and over. I saw Huib off his bike having a break and chewing down some energy gel. I rolled past, with only Mat Wells in front. Should I stop and wait, possibly not as huib was a pretty smart rider and I was cautious going downhill.

Huib, Kieran, and I were soon reunited. Kieran is as good at going downhill, as Dan is going up. We were hooning alongside the Whanganui River. This scenery I can tell you about, it’s simply stunning.

The road condition was questionable, with slips, potholes and gravel. This caught a few riders out. A loose bottle also caught one or two riders out. With one rider nearly coming off.

With 20km to go, Huib and I decided to break away. Huib is by far a better rider than myself. We raced alongside the river, with him just ahead of me. I could see him, but couldn’t catch him. Leading our group was Mat Wells. We could both see him. Huib managed to chase him down, and I could see them sort of working together just ahead of me.

I dug really deep. I chewed my stem to catch them, but more importantly, to stay away from the chasing group. I caught glimpses of the chasing group, and could occasionally see Dan slow things down on the front, allowing me some glory.

I caught Mat within the last km. I thought I dropped him, but he was strong. He hung on to my wheel and then sailed past on the line. I was tired but bloody happy that I’d managed to stay away. Dan and Kieran crossed the line shortly afterwards. The tour was over bar the singing. Oh, and a long 4 hours drive to Wellington.

Stage 8

It had been pissing down all night. The wind was howling or was that Kieran snoring. It had kept us awake most of the night. It was looking as though this stage would be cancelled as well. Apparently, it has never been run, even when in the riders handbook. But to me, and many peoples surprise it was on.

A short 800-metre course in front of Parliament. Given that it had been raining so heavily I chose not to compete. I really didn’t want an injury, not damaged bike. Despite this, it was a really fun event. A few dignitaries and sponsors were there to cheer everyone on. A great event to finish the week. Now rest.

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