The wonders of a windy wet Naki
Facebook is a social virus and I blame it and Miles Davies for my entry into The Power Co Taranaki tour - three days of hard riding, which - if you read on - was harder than ever. A perfect off-season blow out! Miles - Kapiti's answer to a long legged mountain biking Goofy - suddenly expressed an interest in the roads, real speed, and the possibility that he might actually take his road riding seriously. (I also hear that Michael Jackson was seen selling nose restoration cream on a street corner in Waikanae).
Coach Bob was a little dismissive of my intentions ("you're in recovery mode after the Nationals"), but I was treating this tour as a training ride and my recovery has always been reasonably good. Anyway I could always blame the red wine for a multitude of sins. The great bonus was Finlay coming a long as team manager (as a healthier, younger, faster, fitter, but not necessarily wiser version of Bob). Finlay wasn't riding as he has a big season ahead - races to win before being signed up as a pro - making his millions leading the pro European peloton.
The trip to Taranaki I thought would be uneventful until Miles' electrical prowess discovered his ipod could be plugged in and played through the car stereo - whippee! Finlay knew some of the tunes, but sadly I was left ruminating on my age and how musically I needed a hoody and my jeans hanging around my knees. But just in case you have the pleasure of being inflicted to Miles' ipod - you will enjoy a mixture of whimsical profanity, throbbing drum & bass and some particular obnoxious noise, which some have, incredulously, labelled as music.
My driving, with a steady collection of nonsense speeding tickets under its belt, has turned from slow old granddad to a Nana with a horse and cart. Miles says my driving is dodgy and boring, (and he has burn-out images on his cell phone I may notify the MOT about) while Finlay - trying to be nice - says it's cautious. All I can say is we made it to New Plymouth in one piece. The only pretence of speed in my life is the bike.
The other drama of the first night, (which continued throughout the trip as Miles and Finlay lead a conspiracy to confuse and wind-me-up) was me ‘misplacing' my sleeping bag. The undeniable stress of packing made me forget where I had placed my night sack, (behind Miles bike packed in the boot). I lay on heavy accusations that Miles and Fin had pinched my sleeping bag and hid it to my dismay and how ‘awesomely hilariously funny' they were - NOT! Eventually I remembered where I had packed it but was so exhausted - left it in the car and used the plentiful supply of blankets to wrap my self that night.
The first stage was a 90 km romp around a very nicely exposed loop in Kapong way out in the whop whops 20 odd km' from Strafford - which my google map did not find. We were lost, and it was only when I seized the initiative and interrupted a local farmer's breakfast that we found our way to the start. Miles - starting with the A grade elites - actually did bloody well, hanging on till the last tail wind stretch, 75 km into the ride (they hit 70 km's on the tail winds, try hitting that speed on the flat!) - Gale winds are great levellers, and riding in them is very VERY hard. Almost harder than hills, as they bash you about, especially the side winds. Miles came in 13.32 minutes down on the first stage ( a respectable 31st in a field of 50). He'd had enough and decided he wanted more ‘training' miles and joined me in B Grade - I read that as a slack mountain bike softy looking for fun and excuses! And when has road racing ever been easy!
I raced B Grade and came in 2.26 mins down from the leader. I was wrapped as several times I got caught by the wind, and was bashed backed 20-30 metres from the bunch, but didn't panic and just time trialled calmly back. I was seriously cursing the wind at the end, and we were stopped by the police for the peloton creeping across the road as we bustled for protection. It was brutal, the survival of the fittest, and I certainly learnt a lot. Gale force wind means take no prisoners, hustle for your spot - AND KEEP IT.
It was so windy the 10 km Time trial was cancelled. Man it was blowing!
So after a first day - we pondered the next two days and preyed the wind would go away....
Before we mention the second day of hard core racing we have to mention Derek.
Oh yes Derek.
After being bashed by the wind we had our meal and Finlay and me drifted to the communal lounge where Miles had befriended Derek. Derek - a heavily tattooed bi-polar Maori carver-come tenacious mountain biker living in residence. He's a once-in-life-time; as funny as he is mad. Picture a cross between Billy T James, Billy Connolly and a huge line of illegal white powder; that's Derek. He entertained us in the communal lounge and we laughed until our cheeks ached and we could take no more. This guy was on fire and my god he was sooooo funny! The last we saw of Derek was when he shot off to get more Bourbon and Colas - and the photo below is our last memory of him. Bed beckoned - I had my sleeping bag, (even if Miles and Fin were still hiding it - HILARIOUS!) Miles and I only had two rides of 72 km's and 62 km's tomorrow. We had a couple of nasty hill climbs but Derek had inspired us - maybe that's the secret on the Tour de France - have your own in-house random comedian.
Day two had the next worst thing to wind - rain, hills, slippery roads, steep descents, sharp corners, mud and lots of cow crap. Oh and did I mention the RAIN!
Miles was obviously finding the going far too easy and on one of the hill climbs he did what only a big kid high on Fanta would conceive - a very high wheelie which still has me scratching my head. The peloton was climbing pretty hard - and they instantly accused him of being a smarty pants (in amongst a few other unrepeatable phrases). Finlay's record of it is equally as memorable.
The 72 km 3rd stage results weren't put up, but at the start of stage 4 it was absolutely teeming down! Miles was in the action and scored a 2nd in the B Grade sprint finish, while I cruised in 1.20 min back in 22nd place. There where some tough KOM climbs - which split up the bunches throughout the day. As we rode through the rain and there was actually some sun towards the end of the 4th stage.
The final day was not dissimilar to the second. The rain came back (and when we rode it absolutely pissed down). Stage 5 was a tough 3 x 27 km circuit, rolling hills with a tough climb mid way through - for a final 81 km's (I thought it was a flat 50 km, or that's what the tour programme stated!) Miles was in a playful mood and won the sprint, (but there were two riders up the rode so was only third), while I unfortunately got dropped on the last major hill climb (a stiff little bugger) and rolled in chatting away to a few riders 7.30 mins down.
The highlight of the last stage was Sam Rooster King-Turner's heroic ride to take out the sprint points. Sam, the strongest rider to represent Kapiti since leg muscles were invented, had a virtually unbeatable lead, but had to finish the stage to collect the prize money. He broke away right from the start and was on his own for two laps, collecting the points before sitting up and cruising to the finish. I believe his winnings almost covered the cost of coming to New Plymouth.
So that was that:
Miles, because he confused the race organisers by racing B Grade had no final GC (but he could have won the B Grade - wheelies included)... I completed the 4 stages - and close to 300 km in 8.42 min - 16.23 down in 17th position. Sam Rooster T 22nd 30 mins down - but won the sprint series.
So we packed up our smelly, drenched gear and headed back to Paraparaumu. Finlay had great fun driving over the rumble lines - irritating Miles no end. Miles retaliated by turning up the stereo and playing even more obnoxious ‘music'.
We got home safely, and thanks to Miles and Fin for an awesome weekend. Next year I reckon I might try racing it!