16th October: New Course from Sports Park, Hastings.
I have cycled the 110km Tour of the Bay every year from 2006. It is part of my “Tour of Duty”, which includes 4 events at the end of each year. This year I heard during a BikeManawatu Sunday ride that there was a new course. I had mixed feelings about this as I loved the challenge of the old course and I have many fine memories from the last 5 races. Nevertheless,
I decided to motor over to Hastings on Sunday 16th October, after getting up at 5.30am and leaving Palmy at 6. The first clitch was arriving at Ashhurst, seeing the detour signs and realising I would have to drive over the Saddle Road because of the Manawatu Gorge closure. That would squeeze my timing I thought. But the drive went smoothly and I arrived at the Hastings Racecourse and quickly followed the other cars with bikes to the new Sport Park venue in Percival Road. I had 30 mins to register, get changed, warmup and get to the start line by 9am.
The second glitch happened at registration. The polite ladies could not find my name under the solo 105km list. I had prepared for this possibility and so hauled out my registration receipts ($50 entry fee) and email acknowledgements and was eventually given a race number and goodies bag. After a quick change, I joined the back of the field, which is not ideal of course but that is what happens when you run late. Also I didn’t want to post a fast time first up on a new course. That would make it harder to beat the following year, wouldn’t it. The ride out of the Park over an unsealed road caused a few grumbles and then we were away.
The new 105km course runs in a big clockwise loop. It is flat out to Omahu. then there is a steep hill in Ohiti Rd, and rolling hills in Matapiro Rd, climbing all the way out to Otamauri. After that, you ride back on Taihape Rd to Pukehamoamoa. You then turn back on to Matapiro Rd and Ohiti Rd and return to near the Sports Park along an impressive oak-covered avenue to finish on Ormond Rd. (Map @: http://www.sportsground.co.nz/clubsite.asp?siteid=19246&pageid=72847&pagetypeid=17.)
My impressions were it was a very enjoyable course of mostly rolling hills in a wonderfully scenic rural environment. The group I was in were chatty and seemed to be having fun. My time was about 6 mins faster than on the old course the year before. Results can be found at the web link given above.
At this event in previous years, we had always received a meal ticket in our goodies bag to exchange for a sumptuous meal. This was provided under the grandstand after the ride and the occasion was a good social mixer that facilitated story swapping. Of course riders grumbled about this not being offered this year. Queuing at a food cart in the rain is not the same. However, the prize giving, which included thousands of dollars of spot prizes, was a well run affair. Hopefully a few more of the Manawatu locals will be there next year.