The last time I did a race around Lake Taupo was in 1993 in a stage of the Wellington to Auckland ‘Post’ Race as a member of the Fosters Australian Team. I remember it as a relatively easy day with few hills and great weather. Cut to 2011 and I’m sure the hills were steeper and the lake larger. I do know that eighteen years later it was windier!
Staying around the other side of the lake with a mad drive to the start line at 5:30 am was not the best preparation. With no warm up my legs went solid when the race went into the gutter in the nasty cross wind 2 km out from the start line. The whole race went to the far right of the road head to head with surprised vehicles and, thinking that I’m too old to go through a windscreen, I pulled over to the left until the last rider went past. I thought I’d better jump on the back at that point to avoid embarrassment.
Max Annear-Henderson was one of the other two Bike Manawatu riders in the Classic and he and I were in the last little bunch almost from the start. The other local, Angus Findlay, we soon passed standing there with a broken bike after he crashed whilst in the melee up the front. Max and I got a few other riders working and we pulled in some little bunches in front until we had about 25 riders with us. Trouble was, most of these, although fairly strong, didn’t have much of an idea about how to settle down to a rhythm and chase. Although the main bunch was in sight, they slowly pulled away.
The first part of the race was run into swirling head and side winds. As we pulled around towards Turangi, the side wind turned tail and the speeds went up. The differing levels of fitness and obvious inexperience of many of the riders left in our bunch made any coordinated effort useless so I consigned myself to finishing rather than competing. We picked up a few of the better riders who’d been spat out of the earlier groups and, after a tiresome climb over Hatepe Hill we managed to take turns into the headwind to the finish. By this time our bunch had reduced to about a dozen of the better riders, but even then some idiots sprinted for 45th spot!
Max rode well, clearly one of the stronger riders in our bunch – he’ll do well with a year’s decent racing under his belt. I was disappointed in my return to a “big” race, but will be looking forward to the next event nevertheless. Angus was OK after his crash and is clearly destined for bigger things next year.
Dunno whether I’ll be back to ride the Classic; I’ll see how next year pans out. I’m sure I’ll be back at some stage as a supporter though.