The girls were getting a bit keen on looking on the hills for the days stage, so a few of them headed up to the hills to just see if it is what they thought it might be like. The area is famous for it’s white wine, sheep, hills, with many vineyards dotting the area, sure looked good. With the hills bone dry, it was feeling hotter than it really was, but nowhere as dry a Australia the week before. Being Bottle bitch for the week, so far it has been good, nice and relaxing. With two mechanics with us, it was the logical thing to do, and a chance to see how the other side lives for a change. For the mechanics the morning is a busy time, checking and oiling the bikes, checking pressure and those last minute details like the adjustment of the gears again, etc. Then usually we check every nut and bolt on the thing, the tuning again, the integrity of the frame and various other important checks and adjustments. Then we have pack them nice and safe on, or in the vehicles, check the maps for the start town, work out some tactics, make a plan of attack. Organise the transport home, get some lunch for the car organized and many other very important details. It may look like we are standing around waiting for the girls and the start, but we may be thinking up the nature of our racing plan, or some other amazing configuration of bike etc, not a moment wasted.
The beautiful dry countryside of Martinbourgh.
Whereas the Soignier (the European name for, masseur, feeder, etc) seemed to me as to have it pretty easy, I got up, filled a few bottles, got some ice and threw it in the chill box and in ten minutes I was done for a the next few hours. Driving to the start was easy as I followed the team car (as opposed to navigating), put a few bottles on the bikes, then relaxed while the mechanics fussed with the bikes for some more. I then watched the start, then found my way to the feed zone and chilled out (sleeping is not uncommon for most of them at this stage), here I wait for a couple of three hours for the riders to come through, pass them a few bottles, then meander through to the finish. Here more sleeping is done while I wait for the race to finish. And they call this hard work. I think I may have found my new vocation. But as you can guess, I was rather bored with the lack of work, not too soon into my temporary position. As you might have noticed, we have a kind of love hate relationship with these guys. They do work, I’m sure I have seen it somewhere, along the line, (nah only kidding if any of you are reading this), I might have to look harder next time. Nope, they do play an important part, and, in the big tours, with a big team, they do a fantastic job, and they do remind us daily how important their job is.
Somewhere on the roadside, doesn't look picturesque, Masterton.
So next up was the circuit race through the town of Gladstone (there was one pub, so not technically a town, but just don’t tell the locals), around a 30km circuit for 5 laps. Pretty boring for the girls, and for me, waiting on the side of the road for lap 2 for the first feed. I found the feed zone, what looked like a shearing shed in the background, this, after many screams from some large pigs, we found out it was the local meat works, so there was some rather nice, soothing country sounds to help us sleep. The girls almost asleep on the first lap, with the temperatures rising into the mid thirties (‘c), the speed was slow, just over one hour for the first lap, man it was going to be long boring day. The race sped up a little bit more with the next lap, a few sprints for the king of the mountain and the sprint jersey, the Kiwi’s were in all the action. Winning the sprint jersey (Marina D) off the Aussies, but by the time they come past me the bunch was sleeping again. Nothing much happened, a bunch sprint, and a third place for the team with Loes Makerink on the podium.
One of the last few bunches up the hill. Loes M, left and Loes G,right.
Next stage was the ‘Mountain’ stage, this was looking like the deciding stage for the tour, with the leader changing from one T-Mobile rider, Ina to Judith. This she won convincingly, with a minute or so to the nearest on GC. The race was almost done. All of our gang came in pretty easily, but there was some slow riders coming up the hill later on. It looked like it was a rather hot day out there, as most of the girls were looking pretty fried as the passed over the finish line. No dramas for the boys in the car, none for the feeder either, but I might keep off the bacon for a week or two, as those piggy sounds are still ringing in my ears.
What a beautiful day for TT, man I love this country.
A quick drive back to Lower Hutt for the night, for the last two final stages. A short Time Trail, of 12km in the morning, and a hour long crit in the afternoon around the city streets of Wellington. Driving around the TT course in the morning sun was amazing. Just a few short meters from Wellington airport, was the town of Seabourne. With a beautiful course, following the coastline around some nice pristine beaches. My passengers were in awe. It always is nice show off a bit of my own country to the team, especially when we can leave our capital city and ten minutes later be driving a coastline with not a sign of human life around (except the road of course, and the navel base, and a few walkers). The coffee to start the day, was great, the wind was down, the sun was up, what more could we ask for. The racing started with the slowest first, the girls were pretty relaxed as the first riders were coming through the finish chute. With one minute start intervals, and only 57 riders left, it was going to be a short stage. All the gang did well, finishing well near the top, with Susanne getting on the podium with a third place. Judith Arnt (TMB) kept her lead by a win of 1 sec to a Kiwi, with just a crit to come, unless a bad crash happened, she would retain the lead.
Susanne out on the course, looks good enough for a swim.
Waiting for the start of the crit, Wellington Central.
The afternoon crit came around fast, a nice small circuit of less than a km around Wellington central. Great weather, even some spectators for a change, plenty of great viewing spots for them as well. There was a few other races happening on the course before the girls, so there was a good contingent of cyclists kicking around to cheer the girls on. With in a few minutes of the race starting, the weeks riding was getting to a few of the bunch, as there was riders dropping off the back, left, right and centre. We were trying a few attacks with most of the girls, just to see if we could get away at all, seems like most of the teams were doing the same thing. The racing got very fast a few laps into it, great for the punters sitting on the corners as the girls whizzed past them with great speed pedaling into the corners. But again, we just couldn’t get away, every attack was countered, and we were wheeled in, time and time again. But close to the end, Ina (TMB) managed to get about ten seconds on the field, we chased, but we didn’t have enough left, as with in a few laps she had a good lead of 18 secs, with no other teams chasing, this was impossible to catch back. There was some good work by Ina’s team, messing up the chasers, she ended up winning easily. Marina lost the sprint jersey to one of her team mates, Sarah Ulmer, so all was not lost, she managed to get a second place, much to the delight of the locals.
Madeline racing almost too fast for the camera.
The tour was done, with Ina’s team mate Judith taking out the win, we hit the road. I had a drive back to Auckland, and then back to work for a week in the bike shop. With the other two mechanics away for the week racing, I was going to have a busy last week at work. Leaving Wellington was not so easy, as I packed the car to the hilt with bikes and bags from a few other teams, I managed to hit the mother of all traffic jams. Seems there had been a few things on during the weekend in Wellington, not only the cycling, but some Dragon Boat racing, some major festivals, and a few other events on. Of course they all had to leave town at once, put a few road works into that equation, and we had a very slow exit, 3.5km traveled in 2.5 hours. Not a good end to a great weeks racing, but at least the weather was fine, best I have experienced in the region for years. One more week and a bit at home, then back to the cold of Europe, yeha.