Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tour of NZ Wrap Up

After finally finding my camera cables, it's time for a bit of a race report on the NZCT Womens Tour of NZ..

Wow, what an experience. After a Meltdown in Krasna Lipa & a Broken Collarbone in Holland, I was hoping for 3rd time lucky in my attempt at finishing a UCI Stage race, and I finally did it. The experiences from those first 2 attempts help me get through my first 5 day stage race in one piece and I came home from Wellington extremely tired, but super super happy.

Waiting for Take Off!! Super Excited about the week ahead

After the bestest Ex (flatmate) in the world picked us up from the Airport, we ventured for our first view of this foreign land.. A quick trip to Penny Farthing Cycles in Wellington resulted in many laughs and a few 'essential' purchases. Coudn't believe my luck when I found a pink front light that matches my bike's colour scheme perfectly! The challenge of attending the next morning's bunch ride through the Hills surrounding Wellington was thrown down, but with the bunch meeting at 0615 and 5 days of racing looming, we opted for a sleep in and had to turn down the chance to show up the Kiwi boys and promised to come back another time to do so.

Then it was on to sample the New World supermarket for some food to get us through the week. This supermarket was one of the highlights of the whole trip!! With a massive wall of Pick N Mix called Alisons Pantry with Nuts, Fruits, Cereals and Lollies, we were in heaven and provided a good half an hours worth of entertainment to Bender with all of our 'OH MY GOD!' 'I've GOT to try that!!'

The Mega Licorice Allsorts were AMAZING! Regular sized on the left, Jumbo on the right..

The next day dawned drizzly and cool, but we set off for an easy roll around the Bay with some amazing scenery. We made the most of being able to cruise, knowing there wouldn't be much sight seeing in the next 5 days of racing other than the wheel in front, and our own bar tape.

 Travelling to Lower Hutt on the morning of the start of the Tour, we met up with our respective teams (Ingrid - Prime Estate, me TDT RACE) and then got down to business. The RACE girls, Kim and Murray had all had a horror trip over, with a 10 hour flight delay, Rental Car not being there, and then arriving at the hotel at 4am.. Starting the Tour on 3 hours sleep each wasn't exactly what was planned, but these girls are amazing and just did what they had to do to get through Day 1.

Pink Bits is Race Ready!

After only 3 hours sleep, Clare figured the best wake up would be to hit the rollers in the sunshine!

Basically the Tour was set to be 6 Stages over 5 days, including 2 Crits.. But UCI rules state no Crits in Tours, so these were still required to be raced, but didn't count for overall standings. There were quite a few sighs of relief when this was found out, as the final crit stage is rather selective and only 20 girls finished last year resulting in many DNF's for the Tour.

Throughout each stage of the Tour I learnt more and more. There are a couple of mistakes I keep making, that I really need to work on, but that will all come with time and practice. The girls we were racing have been doing this for years and things like positioning etc are second nature to them. One day I hope for that to be me.

Day 3 would have been the biggest learning curve, more so in what I can do. Having never punctured before in a race, when my front tire exploded as the peloton got in to chase mode to bring back a break, I could have easily panicked and given up. But at only 30k into a 90k stage, I wasn't keen on spending the last 2/3rds of the race out the back. So without fuss, I got a quick neutral wheel change, and set about the task of getting myself some wheel to suck! 6k later, I made contact, unfortunately at the base of the climb, so - back out the arse for another 2k until I was safely ensconsed in the bunch feeling rather chuffed with myself, but pretty stuffed too!

That evening was the first crit that didn't count, and I was surprised to find my legs didn't feel as bad as expected. Whilst most said it was 'Easy' etc, my power numbers said it was a reasonably solid race, with 4 away in a break for the last half of the race. At 3 to go I thought I'd try my luck at getting the final paying spot and had a crack off the front, but the legs weren't THAT good and I blew and was brought back in a lap later. Finished somewhere up nearish the front.

Day 4 was a lesson in how much pain I can get through. Facing a 115k stage into a rather stiff head/cross wind, the goal was to hide, but that was shattered at the 15k mark on the 4k climb when attack after attack had the bunch strung out and me losing contact. After the descent the Prime Estate Train came by and we tried to get back, but it wasn't to be and as we gathered more girls a bunch of 20 of us worked at getting to the end. Everyone worked well together when they could, there were some - myself included - that had bad patches and couldn't work, but we all put in what we could and rolled in well within time cut at 10mins down. An epic day in the saddle, but it meant that we'd finished the Tour.

The Crit in Downtown Wellington - Well, 5 girls finished. 2 of them HTC. A hotdog corner made for a strung out peloton, an early crash meant things got split a bit, and the race was pretty much over for 80% of the field within the first 2 laps. Some valiant efforts were made by all, I tried to hang in there for as long as possible too, but when the lead car toots its horn behind your group, it's time to vacate the course. Watching the Team Tactics in play over the final half of the race though was great! A well deserved win to HTC.. And time to celebrate!

                         My new favourite chocolate!

That night there were many 2nd helpings witnessed from the Dessert Buffet, and through the help of Bob the VIS Mechanic and all who challenged him to a Pav eating contest, we managed to clear out the kitchen of Pavlova. The poor 5year old son of one of the officials wanted to race Bob too, but there was none left.. I estimate Bob had to have consumed roughly 3kgs of Sugar by the end of the night.. The Kiwi's thought we were insane, the Italians didn't know what to think, and the Japanese loved it so much they later got some more Pav from the supermarket so they could try beating him!

Neutral Lap of the Wellington Crit - Position Position Position!
A couple of Ciders & many laughs before hitting the hay before an 0330 wake up to get to our flight on time. Monday was a looooooong day!

This week was made so much easier by getting to race with some Awesome awesome chicks. Chloe, Clare, Sarah, Delphine - All did amazingly, it was the first UCI Tour for all and barring Sarah's throat infection stopping her from starting day 4, all finished rather respectably! Miffy unfortunatly was injured and couldn't start, but having her there helping out and doing the little things that if we had to do them might freak us out (like getting me a new battery for my powermeter after mine died in stage 2!) Her experience from a few Euro seasons of racing helped too.

Kim was amazing as Team Manager/Mum/Washer/Massage Therapist. Many late nights and early mornings and sorting everything for us so we knew where to be and when. Kim runs the TDT Race Team like clockwork.
Check out their latest exploits at The TDT RACE Blog. I'm sure the NZ report will be up soon!

And to Shaggy the Team Mechanic.. Even though he refused to waste time and water to do a full wash of our bikes after every stage, our machines were running smoothly and we never had any issues other than a couple of unavoidable punctures! Thanks Muzza!

Next stop - Oceania's in 2 weeks! The party never stops  :-)


SportsTraining said...

Great stuff Aimz. I love following where you are racing. Top stuff.


Aimz said...

Thanks Pete! Been checking out your blog too.. Very glad to see you've come over to the dark side :-)
I might have to come down and try track racing this winter, sounds fun!

mxwalker said...

Well done Aimz. Good work and you have great taste in chocolate too.