Flying home to my own country New Zealand, was exciting, but I was still not looking forward to customs with all the bikes and all the equipment they might want to look through. But we were lucky, there was another four teams on the flight, so they kind of left us alone, and passed us through with out any fuss. We arrived late about midnight and there was a truck and bus waiting from the race organiser to pick us up for the small trip to the hotel. All teams were staying in the Angus hotel, as usual, so there was a bit of a battle to get everyone organised into their rooms before it was too late. The weather was looking ominous for the week, so I was hoping for a repeat of last years perfect sunny conditions. But I wasn’t holding my hopes high, it was Wellington after all, famous for high winds and bad rain. But there was going to be some great racing at least, there was quite a few more teams that we didn’t race with in Geelong here for the week. A little bit more blood to fill the peloton for the races, hopefully we see some more action with a few more hungry girls, looking for some wins.
Most of the NZ team lined up for the start of their very own tour.
The tour was a bit different from the last few years, with a couple of new stages, and a couple of new finishes to some older stages. We started with the usual criterium up in the Hutt Valley, nice and close for the girls, so not to much travelling on the first day at least. In the weeks leading up to the tour we had great trouble finding any rental cars and vans, but I had managed to find a dodgy rental company for a van at least. The car we were still looking for, apparently there was the Golden Shears (A national sheep shearing competition) on in Masterton, and a few other festivals on around in the area. Most of the other teams, had the same issues as well, we were not alone, they were all complaining as well. After calling all the rental companies in the Wellington and surrounding areas, we decided to head to the airport to see if there was any cancellations. We were lucky, one car left, we didn’t care what it was, but it would be ready the next day, at least we didn’t need it for the crit. The bikes unpacked well, with no damage at all, which is a nice change from the airline baggage guys. I got organised in the bike room, trying to keep as much space to work in as I could. It was going to get messy in the next few hours as there were a few more teams to arrive, and with six of us in there, it was already getting full.
The photo of the photo finish, DeGoede nearest us and Oneone a few cm behind her.
The day of the first stage arrived, it was not raining, and the sun was even shining. We headed out to the course a few km up the road, the girls looking fantastic on their nice clean and shiny bikes. Time for a bit of a warm up for the girls, and time for me to have catch up with a few of the Kiwi’s and some of the other mechanics. Crits are such a social time for the staff, that’s as long as the girls are staying upright on the bikes. It’s so nice to use my kiwi slang for a while, talking as fast as I want and still getting understood, it will change in a week or so, time to make the most of it. The crit was about to start, so I made my way to the pits, with spare bikes and wheels in hand, ready for the worst. The tour had started, and there were plenty of nervous riders in the bunch as usual, and there was going to be some crashes for sure, I would be ready for it. Things were going well, a few attacks off the front, but nothing too serious, we were certainly active in most of them. Nothing major happened, a few small crashes, but my girls were safe in the front. There was the dodgy Chinese National team, famous for their crashing, also the Japanese national team, not as dangerous, but bad all the same. The hour was soon up, and then two laps to go, there was no real attacks off the front, but on the last lap we saw a little gap with two out the front. Oneone and Susan DeGoede (Nurenburg) were out the front, they sprinted, and it was too close to call. The stupid announcer got it wrong as usual, announcing Oneone as the winner. I was right on the finish line, ready with my camera as usual, and it looked like DeGoede took it by a few centimetres. And I was right, he came back on air to tell us that in fact it was DeGoede for the win, Oneone 2nd and coming in 3rd was our very own Joanne Kiesonski (Cervelo-Lifeforce). DeGoede takes the leaders jersey, and we leave for the country town Martinborough, for the second stage in the morning.
Come on, get serious Ina, it's a race after all. The opening Crit.
Stage two from Martinborough to Masterton was a nice little stage, with a number of good little climbs, then a run through to the finish with about 20km flat racing. We also use the same two hills for the third stage, but then we throw in Admirals hill to finish on, making these two the toughest stages of the tour. I just love the drive up through the Rumitaka’s, kind of classic Kiwi scenery, perfect for the tourists here for the week. Heading down into the valley on the other side, was much the same drought conditions of last year. I was half expecting a greener look after Australia, but that was not going to happen. We started the race with a lap of the town, it was over in half a minute, not sure of the population here, but sure it’s about a 100 or so. The real race was on, and we started out nice and slow, almost too slow, as the car was ready 15 km/hr in places, kind of embarrassing for Women’s cycling really. The speed stayed slow for another hour or so, almost making us fall asleep in the car, it was going to be a long day at this speed. By the time we hit the first good hill at about the 75km mark, the team was starting to stretch their legs a little, and the speed was on. They started with a few attacks, and started to see who was keen on a bit of a race. Nothing much happened until the last big hill, this I am sure gets bigger every year, but I just think everyone is talking about Admirals hill in the third stage, and they forget about this little kicker.
Art Shot, climbing during the 2nd stage.
The pace came on right on the start of the hill, with about 40km to go, it was the decisive move of the stage. Three of us attacked, and drew a few out of the bunch, think there was about 12 that went with Oneone, Chantele and Judith. A couple of Cervelo and a couple of Menikini, even NZ had a rider in there as well. We put the pace on, and kept the speed high. With 20km to go, Judith had spent almost all the time on the front, with Chantele helping as well, not any other team was in the break working, maybe they thought we would do it all ourselves. But the speed was high, and the gap between the peloton increased to about 2 mins, and they were not interested in chasing at all. With 10km to go, Judith was pulling the break at high speed, we had the leader jersey safe (virtual leader) on the back of Oneone, as long as a disaster didn’t happen, then we would be sweet.
In through the beautiful NZ countryside, a bit brown though.
The head Judges were been asses, and would not let us pass the small bunch of what was left of the peloton, seems she had some special rule we did not know about. We pushed to go through to the break, it was more than a minute (that’s the UCI rule) so she had to let us go through. But she was stalling bad, a bit of power had gone to her head. Another two cars came up to press her into action for the break, and she decided to let us through. And just in the nick of time. As we were speeding through to the break (a minute can seem like ages when you drive it), Oneone came through on the radio that she had punctured, it was our leader in the race, and they were about 7km before the finish, a very dangerous situation. The neutral service were just looking at Oneone as we arrived at speed (they couldn’t work out if it was a front or rear wheel needed I think), I leaped out of the car, changed the wheel and pushed her on her merry way. The neutral service guy still didn’t realise just what happened, looking with a stunned look on his face, wheels in hand as we drove off. The bunch had slowed a little, as they should, as our team towed them the last 40km. They must have known she was in the lead, and their conscience must have got the better of them, as they were not riding that fast in front. Judith had dropped back to help Oneone back to the break, and with the power of a diesel truck, she pulled her back up to the break with 2 km to go. Now it was up to her, the bunch sprinted hard, but Oneone must have had some adrenalin still flowing from the puncture, I know I certainly did. She pulled hard, and took out the sprint for first, and took the leaders jersey for the day, not a bad result really, considering it could have ended a lot worse in such a short space of time.
Part two coming up. And some pics here somewhere.