Since Elizabeth was selected to participate in the U17 training camp at race at the Queens Birthday weekend Taranaki tour, I thought I’d make the trip up with her and have a crack at a race I’d only done once before, some 7 years ago. At the same time, John Stewart was taking Kate and Campbell up and he was telling me how much fun he had riding last year (and winning D grade). John had demolished the opposition in 2011, and I know that he’d been doing some secret training to try and repeat the performance. He had the Stratford locals scared anyhow, so they banned him from D, making him ride C with the Open women and a bunch of hardened Vet racers.
A bunch of us oldies stayed with the U17 and U19 NZ road squads at the Catholic Girls School at Stratford. It was a great way to do a tour; meals provided, a warm bed, a drying room, and even under-floor heating. Beats the Stratford Motor camp!
Our juniors in the NZ development teams included Mark Findlay (U/19), Josh Kendall, Jordan Castle, Elizabeth, and Kate (U/17). Robert Stannard and Campbell got special dispensation to ride with the older boys, but it was a tough call for them, with three days and over 200 km of racing. There were a few other Manawatu riders up there too, Jonty Hapeta (B grade), Damien Larder (B), Jacob Humphries (B), Ross Castle (D), Angus Findlay (A), John Arbuckle (D), Fiona Macdermid (C), and Gareth Cannon (one of our top U/17 mountain bike riders getting some experience on the bitumen).
The highlights for BM were Jordan and Ross’s stage wins. Elizabeth came away with 4th overall (U/17 girls) and 2nd in the KOM. Campbell finished a very creditable 15th (U/17) given he is an U/15 rider. Despite a mechanical during a vital stage of stage 3, John Stewart managed to clamber back onto the group, finishing 5th (C) all up. Jonty and Damien also finished top ten in their grade.
Personally, I found A-grade pretty tough, not having done a race since the Bush Tour. But, after a poor first day where I lost about 15 minutes I found my old legs and managed to hang on to the bunch. I even attacked a bit and got away in the winning break on stage 4. Angus had a better time of it though, unlucky not to get a top 10 spot.
Apart from the great racing, the best things about the long weekend were: 1) the relative lack of rain for this race (relative being a carefully chosen word); 2) the set up for the junior development riders – kudos to Dave Osten, and the Cottam family for organizing much of that; 3) the comradery with fellow BM members on tour – plenty of laughs and stories about attacks, getting dropped, and who was doing the sitting on.
Looking forward to next year!