It is Sunday 18 December and a depleted field of 29 riders is setting off one at a time to tackle the formidable Waihi Midsummer Madness Time Trial. This is the toughest road time trial event in New Zealand. I make it 127km with about 1300 vertical metres of climbing. There is some great scenery…but I have to admit it is hard to fully appreciate that during the ride.
There were 47 names on the start sheet, but only 29 started. The sensible ones figured the riders would face not midsummer conditions, but something more akin to midwinter conditions and decided not to start. They were right. Last year the little black box on my handlebars recorded an average temperature of 26.8C. This year it was 9.5C.
I was not sensible. It looked to me that the weather was clearing. Thirty minutes into the ride I realized I was wrong when the rain restarted and I was soaked through. At pretty much the same time international triathlete Terenzo Bozzone, who started 3 minutes behind me, caught and passed me.
Getting to the top of the Hikuai-Kopu Road usually means the hardest part is done. It was a tail wind for the last 50 km when I drove the course the day before. On Sunday the wind had changed direction and the hard part was just beginning. Thirty kilometers from the finish I stood on the pedals to stretch my legs but my quads were so drained they didn’t hold me up! A few kilometers on I realized I was struggling to keep a straight line and had to forget aerodynamics and sit up for safety sake through parts of the Karangahake Gorge. I used my very last drop of energy at the finish line and was mildly distressed for about 30min after. I think I underestimated my food requirements in the cold, wet conditions!
The course record is about 3:21:00. It must have been a tough day because times by individual riders to complete the course ranged from 3:39:28 (Terrenzo Bozzone) to 6:14:50. I was seventh fastest and that was good enough to win my 55-59 year age grade. I also won the Doug Kingston Trophy. The trophy is awarded for the biggest difference between actual time and the estimated Masters Adjusted Standard Time (MAST). The MAST works on the principle that older means slower. In my case the organizer generously estimated that an “average” 59 year old would ride the course in 5:04:55. I managed to ride 4:00:52, so I beat that by 1:04:03. The next largest difference was 59:40.