The day started off as a typical Palmy day- wet, cold, windy, so I knew it was going to be tough. Lining up at the start line I looked around and recognised a few familiar faces, and was thankful I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did.
The countdown.. 5..4..3…
a few going early as usual (ashamed to say I was one of them) ..2…1 and we’re off! It’s a pretty steady pace going through town, with 2 unnamed hoons attacking straightaway. Once we hit the cemetery it was the usual mad dash to Ashhurst, with a few mates dropping off. A few left turns through the village, and were at the first hill.
Everybody seemed tense as we approach the end of Oxford Street, knowing that this is where the first make it or break it opportunity arose. Riding hard up the hill, I was filled with mixed emotions; ecstatic to be on the wheels of the likes of Steve Stannard and Mark Waterland, and angst knowing I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Unfortunately, I ran out of teeth skin, and dropped to what seemed like a much more manageable 2nd bunch. While racing down Colyton Rd to Colyton, I wasn’t looking forward to the Feilding-Cheltenham straight, however after a good 20 minutes of riding in a straight line (FUN!!!) and thanking god for those heaven-sent superheroes that seem content to pull the group along from the front, I saw us closing in on the Cheltenham pub where I raced out to the front of the group so as not to get left behind after the inevitable rubber band effect around the corner of the 80 km turnoff. ‘Left!’ I call. There no ensuing reply, so I just roll round the corner and check behind to assess the competition. Imagine my combined surprise and horror to see the whole group keep heading up to Kimbolton. I blink, and Nate Levin (year 9, PNBHS) rolls around the corner. I blink again, and Campbell Stewart (year 8, PNINS) also swings around the corner. We regrouped, and after a hurried and disbelieving discussion we deduced we were at the head of the 80 km race! Marshalling our forces, we blitzed it into the headwind, up the hill and turned left, whizzing past surprised expressions of the marshals to see 3 young guns heading the race.
Now came the fun part; 15 or so km of downhill with a tailwind to Feilding, across the railway tracks, flashing a grin for Kirsty’s camera, followed by another 25 of the same back to Palmerston North.
In the end, it came down to the 800 m final sprint from the Terrace End cemetery to the finish, with myself coming in first with an average speed of 37.5 km/hr, Campbell Stewart 2nd, and Nate Levin 3rd. Great job guys! Following closely a few minutes behind was Kate Stewart, 4th, George Roberts 5th, and John Stewart 6th. Pat on the back for the old man Ross Castle who came in 11th. What an amazing family of top-notch cyclists those Stewarts are! Special thanks must also go to the race organisers, Bike Manawatu and all the volunteers and sponsors involved in the event; it couldn’t happen without you.
Until next year, Jordan castle.