I awoke at 5.30am to the sound of rain bucketing down on to the roof. Sounds heavy I thought and snoozed for a while. But my body knew what was in store for it today, Sunday 6 November. So I got up, went upstairs and started checking the colour of the sky out windows at all compasses points: heavy cloud over the ranges to the East, dark rain-laden clouds to the south and west, a bit more light in the skies to the North. It didn’t look promising at all! What was the outside temperature I thought. I went back downstairs to check the weather station; only 9°C. Cold too. So I sorted my cycle gear and got ready, all the while hoping the rain would ease. By 7am it had stopped. But then another downpour occurred at 7.30am. Just a test of my resolve I thought. So at 7.45am, I rode off to the start line as a partial warm-up.
My excitement was building as the 8.30am approached. After assembling in the Square, a few hullos and some light banter, we gingerly rode out amonst the crowd of cyclists to go under the start banner and over the timing mats. Then it was the usual mad sprint to Ashhurst. “Darn it – started too far back again! Come on”, I said to myself, “pick it up and find a decent bunch”. Just as I passed the bottom of Upper Main Street, Mr Fraser flew passed and I latched on to his back wheel, yelling to Mr Kerry to do the same. Mr Fraser was cranking it, like he was really wanting to get home after work. And he didn’t ease up at the first bunch we came to, but sped right on by. Of course I followed and we worked hard until we eventually caught a sizeable group containing some cyclists wearing orange, bean cycling shirts and a few familiar faces. We slowed down and settled a bit, to recover before the hill up Oxford Street.
Being of a larger frame, I moved to near the front of the peloton to allow for some drifting back on the ascend and avoid the “rubber band” effect at the top. It worked a treat and so I repeated this tactic on the next hill and the next. The wind was a strong westerly and so group riding was important through Colyton. Then there was a cross-wind out to Cheltenham where the 80km riders, including some “had beans” turned off.
Those with “more beans” carried on in the Higgins 116km event, pushing up to Haynes line and the rolling hills. We motored fast down the long hill to Beaconsfield Valley Road where my mudguard self-ejected. Along the valley road, I move up the peloton and took a run at the steep ascent to the Cheltenham-Hunterville Rd. Yes, the tactic worked again and we headed steadily on upwards to Williamson Road. I noticed the Bushman from Pahiatua was pushing a big gear and asked him why he was wearing rugby socks in French colours. He replied that they were the local rugby colours. About this point, his bike started screeching and his back derailleur started falling apart. Looked like a serious mechanical to me. I told the marshall at the next turn into Dunolly Rd.
By Short Rd, the pace had noticeably quickened, up to about 50km/hr with the strong tail wind. We again headed into the wind up Makino Rd and passed Stanway Hall. We turned into Tokorangi Rd and everyone sprinted then regrouped with the strong tail wind. If only I could stay in the peloton going up these hills I thought and so I used my positioning tactic again to good effect. We flew through Halcombe, cycled up Mangone Rd rolled through the dipper and ground it out up the big hill towards Makino Rd.
A quick zip down the steep hill where Mangone Road sweeps right into Makino Rd and the pace was really on. Mr V8 and Mr Lui were out there interchanging the lead with me, the young Ms Pink and the powerfulbuilt Ms Blue. It was full speed through Feilding, down Campbells Rd to Bunnythorpe and up over the hills in Stony Creek Rd. I was starting to feel fatigued but I still pushed on to the front of the bunch to lead down the hills and over the railway to the Ashhurst Rd.
Not long now and I was still in the bunch with my lightweight mates I thought. I needed to hang on just a little bit longer to the finish. And then they came passed me, swoosh, sprinting vigorously for the line, wobbling and jocking for position. Of course I joined in. And so we finished with a flourish!
I was really stoked with my ride and time. All that walking, averaging 24,000 step equivalents per day over the previous 8 weeks with the loss of 6 kg had certainly helped my cycling. Once I checked our times on the event website @ http://regonline.activeglobal.com/builder/site/tab2.aspx?EventID=947317, I found out that 2 mates had times about 14 seconds ahead of me and the rest of them were behind me. Gotta be happy with that I reckon!