Perfect conditions, a team on the up and a plan provided by team maestro Paul. It was shaping up to be a good race. The plan – me, Dave and Mike stay near the front, monitor splits and possibly join any promising breakaway. Everyone else, maintain position, try to support each other and get into position for points.

After the flag dropped, there was a fairly punishing pace on the way out, I finally slapped myself about a bit and stopped watching the race as a spectator from the back of the bunch. I got to the front of the peloton. An optimistic few had broken away and I had a brief panic when I realised there was a blue shirt amongst them. After consulting the colour chart, I decided it was a Tararua Builders blue shirt, so I hadn’t been trying to chase a teammate down.

As we turned off Lake Ferry Rd and into the first hill, I was out of position – further back and boxed in in the middle of the bunch.  My climbing speed wasn’t where I hoped it would be, and I missed the split. I just about got back on to the bunch through the downhill and the approach to the next, longer but shallower climb. I slipped off the bunch again on the climb. Last year the crosswinds through here were pretty harsh and I never caught up, so I was panicking slightly. The slope eased a bit, and I could see the turnaround ahead. I was hopeful the main bunch would slow down enough round the cone that I could get back in touch with the back. I didn’t manage it.

I have a tendency to be oblivious to what’s happening behind me in races, so I thought I was on my own. Only after going round the cone did I realise I was dragging a bunch, and most of them surged past me out of the turnaround. I could see Katie and Todd battling to get up to us still approaching the cone. With a few of us now working on the chase, we reeled in Dave, who was on his own behind the lead group. He’s a useful guy to have on your side in a situation like this, and immediately got stuck into the work.

We caught the front bunch just before the last sharp climb. Then, immediately, most of us got spat out again. Once a few riders had regrouped following the descent, the pursuit was on. A couple of riders caught up from behind and we swallowed up a couple of small groups ahead so we had 25 or more, with probably 10 or 12 of us working in a rotation to reel in the 10 to 15 riders ahead. After a good 10 km, we managed it but the effort had been huge and my race was pretty much run. I had a little dabble at the front, but didn’t have the legs to stay there. So, I was now off plan and rolled through to the finish near the back of the peloton. Earlier, in the warm up, we’d recce’d the last turn and the finishing straight. A few of us noted a bit of gravel on the corner. Unfortunately, that took a couple of riders out as they jostled for position for the final sprint. Mike had got through out of trouble and finished sixth. Paul managed to side-step the crash by using the pavement, and recovered enough to get into the points. I slowed right down to avoid the prone riders and cruised home.

Most of us hate being dropped out of races, so I was really pleased that the fairly epic chase effort had paid off. But, this is team racing. There were 2 Kapiti riders up ahead in the small lead bunch, effectively guaranteed points. It is quite possible that the chase bunch would have caught them anyway, but me and Dave probably did more than our share of the work. Going back to being oblivious to what was happening behind, I didn’t know that Todd and Katie had got back onto the chase bunch before the final climb. Katie should effectively be a protected rider – she won the bunch sprint out of the chase pack in the previous race. Rather than cooking my own legs bringing the bunch back up to the leaders, from the team’s point of view we should have put the same effort into bringing Katie back to the chase bunch and then probably not contributed to the big pursuit. It might not have worked, but if it had all come together as it did anyway, it was far more likely we’d have had a third rider in the points. As the series progresses, hopefully my race craft will get stronger, along with the legs.