After a quiet (bikewise, pretty much every other aspect was busy busy busy) and snotty week, it was nice to wake up yesterday morning to a bit of sun creeping around the curtains.
The bike had given me a few minor shifting problems at BP2, so Friday afternoon it had a bit of a tune up by my generous sponsor, Oli Brooke-White at Roadworks Bicycle Repairs. We'd had a bit of a communication break down, and it was much appreciated that Oli gave me a bit of his precious family time.
I'm really liking these late race starts, so it was a bit of a sifty morning. A few bits of toast (peanut butter and red plum jam FTW!) and a big bucket of sweet tea disappeared down the hatch, and another cuppa for good measure. A bit of time on vorb, and I'd arranged to meet way_downsouth for a ride over to the race, and have a bag of warm clothes ferried over by Scotty and psychavoc. We all live within a minute's ride of one another which is pretty cool.
Pete and I had a nice ride out of Karori, and then along the Old Hutt Rd, followed by SH2 to Petone. I don't really mind the presence of the cars, and always enjoy getting onto the smooth surface along there with its decent shelter from the wind. It always also signals I'm goin' ridin' which no doubt adds to my enjoyment. We had plenty to chat about, with race tactics, the Makara Peak Supporters' AGM (Pete's treasurer, and I'm secretary), and KPMG's generous sponsorship of MPS on the agenda.
The ride along the Petone foreshore was pretty uneventful, and before too long we were grovelling up the Wainui Hill. I almost came a cropper blowing my nose and simultaneously dropping off the road into the gutter!!! Novice...
I think I have a 36-25 gear, and before too long watching Pete in his 39-?? was doing my head in, so I overtook him, and paced myself to the top. Scotty and Celia passed us on the way up the hill in the car. After a short pause, we rolled down into Wainui, and headed for the bakery preferred by the Wainui trail-building crew. It was about midday by this point, and damn hard to choose what to eat. There was plenty of delicious looking sweet stuff laden with cream and custard, but sense prevailed, and I stuck with a ham and egg sandwich (which I ate straightaway) and a bit of date loaf (which I ended up eating after the race).
We then rolled down to the registration trailer that PNP have recently acquired - an excellent addition to their growing list of race-related assets. I must say, they are a very impressive club which is clearly prospering. We then shot back around the corner, where I had a coffee and Pete a hot chocolate. After making use of the facilities, it was time to head back for briefing.
It was bloody nice standing around in the sun, surrounded by familiar faces, bling bikes, and interesting roadie outfits. It was great to see a young guy had turned up to ride on a pretty low-end MTB, though unfortunately he ended up riding solo for most of the way. After a good briefing by Mike Sim, it was time to race. It was going to be tough for my Break group - we were a little over half the size of Scratch, who we had a mere minute on, and there was no safety gap to put us out of sight.
We started off, and quickly got into a decent paceline. The rotation was pretty good, but it became clear that there were a couple of riders a little underpowered, and to keep it smooth, we had to drop our speed, and it soon became apparent we were simply going too slow.
From memory, Scratch caught us almost 10 minutes from the coast on the way out. Craig Lawn and Brent Backhouse seemed to have taken charge, and were doing a lot of the work. I was at the front of Break when they came to the front, and managed to find a gap just behind Craig, and then stay on his wheel. The last thing I wanted was to have Break implode, and then have to ride alone or in a small group into the pretty stiff northerly.
I ended up staying near the front of the combined bunch to the turn around, taking regular pulls - one of only half a dozen or so to do so. A few more chipped in after the turn around, which was essential if we were going to make progress into the wind. It was nice to see SteveC and Chris Kendall out there. A couple of times I was on Craig Lawn's wheel and got the old flick of the elbow. I felt duty bound to come by him each time, and usually could back that up with the necessary power. A couple of times I simply had to sit in, and mumble an apology.
And so we toiled on. I don't think I drifted back beyond about 12th wheel at any stage, and had no real idea what was going on behind. The riders in front of me were the usual suspects, and every now and then a new jersey would appear. ThingOne came to the front about a third of the way home on the upwind leg, and stuck around in the front for the remainder. There were a few accelerations which I really struggled to match, and there were a couple of times when I was really on the rivet and worrying that I was about to pop. Although in hindsight, I would have had plenty of shelter if I'd just stopped working, I didn't consider that possibility, and was able to keep rotating through good luck and timing more than anything.
I really enjoyed Craig Lawn's announcement at about 1500m to go... - something along the lines of "I don't want to see anyone contesting the sprint that hasn't been working." That probably was to my favour, as it might have intimidated a few of my limpet-like Break compatriots, and a few Scratch riders who I was competing against on handicap! The year before I'd blown spectacularly on the way out of the little dipper just short of the line. This year, I held something in reserve, and I was able to put in a bit of an acceleration, managing to hold Craig Lawn's wheel almost to the line.
Lee Evans came around us all - the first time I'd seen him all race! Apparently he got a spectacular scolding from some of the more seasoned roadies! I managed to pass ThingOne before the line (though apparently I cut him up a bit which was absolutely unintentional). Looking at the results, I managed to stay clear of Kevin McCormack who'd passed me at a huge rate of knots just before the line in BP2.
I finished with the sense that I'd been about 6th or 7th to the line, but the results showed 4th to the line, and 4th on handicap which I'm absolutely thrilled with. I keep improving each week, and it was great to have the opportunity to mix it with Scratch. I think if I'd started with them, my result probably would have been the same. I'm really surprised given the long injury lay-off I've had. I guess I timed it well, and it probably coincided with everyone's off season.
Pete and I rode home, joined by Perry. The legs were well and truly protesting by the time I got to Simon's in Northland for a debrief!
Next week, the race will be interesting with a few hills thrown in. At this stage, I'm leaning towards starting with Scratch...
Originally published on vorb