Monthly Archives: June 2016

Summer Stories

Generated by IJG JPEG LibraryIt seems it has crept up on us again.  The colonies’ schools have broken up and the great Singapore exodus has begun.

So without much ado about nothing, I will wish you all a great summer holidays and leave you with tales of bad luck and perseverance from Colin Robinson.

If any tales of cycling summer holidays should spring to mind over the next couple of months, as always please feel free to mail them to anzacycling.rti.ed@gmail.com

And while you’re away…
Let’s be careful out there.
Andrew

P.S. #Garminfixyourqualityproblemsyourcyclingproductssuck

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On Persistence, Listening and Folklore

3-times-bad-luckBy Colin Robinson

In my experience, Murphy’s Law has a corollary (or at least a close cousin) that means there are times when a number of unrelated things in your life break down in sympathy with each other for no apparent reason, leaving you wondering about fairness, justice and who you have offended recently.

Well it turns out that my cycling life is not immune from this effect and, as a bonus, the rule of threes applies (if you don’t count the broken seat post clamp). So in case anyone might derive benefit from my learnings:

shiny new rivetsFirst, I managed to tear the front derailleur mounting plate off my bike frame when the chain jammed. Three bike shops all advised “must send back to factory”, “cannot fix”, “need new bike”, etc.  My own inspection showed that I had sheared two of the three rivets that hold the plate to the frame which did not look that scary but everyone, it seemed, was scared of carbon frames. Enquiring further afield, including of the original retailer in Beijing, produced the answer I wanted – just re-rivet it, the carbon will be fine.  All I needed now was a bike shop that agreed or a bunch of tools that I have at home but not in Singapore. The suggestion of Valley Cycles struck gold and within 24 hours my days of riding sans front derailleur were over! Worthy of note for all who have similar arrangements on their bikes, ‘cos the rivets, it turns out, can and do corrode.

wet garminNext problem: my Garmin which, it transpires, is not equal to the soggy charms of the weather on Taiwanese mountain tops. [OMG don’t get me started on the total #crapgarmin #wetgarmin #nocustomerservicegarmin #poorqualitygarmin #uselessgarmin its for use on a bike folks, it gets wet! Fix your rubbish products Garmin.  Sorry! Ed.]  ……….A couple of days in the aircon had it showing signs of life but still not completely healthy. So my wife gently suggests filing it in a bag of rice for a few days, with the assurance that there was no rice on the menu during that period. It worked. The Garmin came out without fog under the screen and ready to play – in all aspects except talking to satellites that is.  It would happily track rides from home to Rats but after that satellite service was suspended.  What to do lah?ricefixphone

Garmin in Singapore helpfully suggested sending it to Taiwan (the original cause of the problem if you recall). Garmin service desk in the US helpfully suggested deleting and resetting a bunch of files which sounded good, wasn’t difficult and won me an extension of service to about halfway down Orchard Rd. My friend in the US then helpfully concluded it needed repair which cannot be arranged on-line, no other choices given.  Back to the Taiwan option.  At this stage a new 520 is looking good, faster to obtain and not subject to the vagaries of the modern postal system.

Dejected, I dropped a note to my engineering student son who, from his shared house in Melbourne, was obviously in a good position to help. “Dad, why not take it outside, disable the auto-off function and see how long it will talk to satellites while sitting still (or just buy a new one)?”  I didn’t see how that would help but it could be interesting. Lo and behold, the Garmin is as happy as Larry and would talk to satellites all night if I let it! Soooo – is the problem motion, or is it the auto-off function?

I now have a functioning, rice-dried Garmin that only turns on and off when I tell it to!

dollarbillfixWe’re getting there. The third event was a close encounter of the third(!) kind with unidentified road debris on a dark West Coast highway morning resulting in an instantly flat back tyre. No problem there, I know how to deal with that without waylaying the group. One new tube, 500m down the road and bang, another flat tyre.  A dawning thought – maybe the tyre did not come through the initial encounter unscathed. And sure enough, it has a nice hole torn in the sidewall that I’d missed in my first inspection.

Roti-Prata-Braddell-Singapore-7726Now I’ve heard the $2 story a few times and I do carry two tubes and some money – time to put the folklore to the test. And I am very pleased to report that a S$10 note ( turns out my last $2s had been donated to the roti prata man at the foodcourt on Sunday, in another worthy cause) makes a worthy and capable tyre reinforcing pad, although I do admit it would also nearly have got me a taxi home.

I am now a functioning cyclist again who, in retrospect, may have missed out on a new bike, a new Garmin, and a taxi ride home. Fortunately, Fathers’ Day is in the offing.

It never rains but it pours!

umbrella-bicycle-rainLast night saw the 2016 ANZA Cycling AGM take place with what we believe was the largest turnout for an AGM.  We thought it was the controvercial committee membership election then remembered that all positions were uncontested, so we were worried there would be passionate heated debate about adding red and blue as official club colours into the constitution, but nobody objected (although we can only hope we never see red, white, blue, green, black, gold all on one jersey, I mean NEVER!)  And so, the only logical conclusion was that you all came for the free pizza, beer and friendly banter.

Changes from last year’s committee are:
Chris Rawlings – MTB Director
Phil Routley – Road Director

Carmen Fay – Membership Director (a position she took up prior to the AGM taking over from Neridah who has been exiled back to the colonies due to excessive potty mouth)

So, many thanks to outgoing Road and MTB Directors Stafford and Arran for a job well done.

With that said, after the drought of racing and riding news, we have the write up of Don’s personal nemesis, that being the Tour de Bintan.  We also have 3 reports of the 3 days of riding in Taiwan organized by the lovely Ms Gordon #GordonsGetaways.

Read on, and in case you have forgotten,

Let’s be careful out there; and
#dontbeadick

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Day 1

Introduction By Laura #GordonsGetaways Gordon

Now in it’s second year, Anza Cycling’s annual jaunt to Sun Moon Lake took 18 riders over to Taiwan for the Vesak long weekend. A 5 day, 4 night excursion promising to take in some of the most stunning scenery and epic climbs in the region.

Roping in a few newbies from the passenger manifesto, we managed to persuade scribes Ben ‘I’m not competitive’ Farnsworth, Alex ‘I’m the most sensible’ Theime, and Scott ‘I roll, how I roll’ Leadbetter to put down a few words to describe the North Asia outing.

DAY 1 | Wuling
147km | 3,275m elevation
https://www.strava.com/activities/583197761
By Ben Farnsworth

Following a long day of travelling we woke up bright and early and raring to go. After a speedy breakfast (which wasn’t half as bad as the pictures made it out to be – and far better than the Mos Burgers vouchers given out at the grown ups hotel) we met at the support van at 7:30am, ready to embrace what was to be the hardest of all three days of climbing. After gathering up the stragglers and getting the days’ brief out of the way, we grouped together for the obligatory first day ANZA kit photo. We had around 15 ANZA jerseys on show in total, with a couple of outliers from The Mavericks, West Coast Riders and Athlete Lab. [Editor: who are now all fully paid up members!]

There was some grumbling amongst the group and some debate over why the first day should be the toughest day. Personally, I was looking forward to getting stuck in. And once we stopped the debating that is exactly what we did.

We finally rolled out at 7:51am – 21 minutes later than advertised! We set off at an easy pace and then had a nice 15km’s of downhill where even I (with my infamous downhill and cornering skills) managed to hit speeds of in excess of 60km’s per hour.

Next we reached the lower slopes of Mount Wuling, luring you into a false sense of security with easy gradients that then increased over the course of the 50km incline. We had experienced some traffic on the roads but the weather had held out and at this point it looked like it was going to for the rest of the day. The peloton split into two groups and both groups powered on to the first pre-determined check point at Starbucks (47km into the ride). I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Taiwanese roads but I was pleasantly surprised. Their conditions were relatively good; very few potholes, smooth surfaces and generally pleasant to ride on. However, the drivers on the roads, much like in Singapore, didn’t have the best awareness of cyclists – and there were certainly a few near misses on day one.

After a quick rest, coffee/ cake refuel and gathering of warm layers from the supply plan, we all left Starbucks one by one to climb to the summit. An additional 25km of climbing to reach the summit at 3200m

I have never experienced problems exercising at high altitudes before, but I guess I have never exerted myself to that level. At around 2800m I began to feel light headed and found myself having to stop to take breathers and even though my pace slowed significantly it felt I was pushing myself to the max.

I now understand why the Colombians climb the hills so well in the Tour de France

It was also around this point the rain came in – so as opposed to being a nice clear day the views were non-existent and the rain torrential.

Five long hours after setting off that morning, it was with relief that I finally reached the top (This was not a race… but I won!)! Unfortunately the first few to the top also beat the support van! So, despite the freezing conditions (and because of them) we made the call to descend without our dry, warm layers. This made braking very tricky as our fingers were numb and moving them was challenging.

Upon arrival at Starbucks hot coffee was the main order of the day. It took me at least 30 minutes to stop shivering and get my body temperature back to normal.

That was day one over … other than the 10km climb back to the hotel! Although conditions weren’t great we all came away with a massive sense of achievement. I think Scott summed it up nicely for all of us: “THE toughest, most uncomfortable, highest ride I will ever face!”

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Day 2

DAY 2 | The RECOVERY RIDE
Road to Nowhere | 68km | 1,459m Elevation
https://www.strava.com/activities/583808496
By Alex Theime

After Saturday’s brutal climb to Wuling, everyone was looking forward to an easier day in the saddle on Sunday. At just 68km there was reason to be happy to have made it through the previous day and get ready to set off on what is known as the trip’s “Recovery Ride”. Whilst there was plenty of talk of sore legs around the breakfast table at the Tanhui [not so] Modern Hotel, the mood was upbeat at the promise of an easier, scenic ride.

Also known as the trip’s Official Unofficial Rapha Ride, the resident Rapha Ambassador Phil Morris was ready to go bright and early. Suitably happy with riders’ sleeve length, sock length and general Rapha-esque appearance, Captain Morris gave his nod of approval and the group rolled out from the usual meeting point in front of the Hotel del Lago. The ride started out at a steady pace along the shores of Sun Moon Lake, which was great fun as the group pretty much stayed and worked together for the initial km’s, and the rain showers did nothing to dampen the mood.

Once through one of the small lakeside towns, it was a left turn on to a small country road that immediately kicked up to be solid little climb. It became clear very quickly that some (2) in the group may have done some pre-ride Strava analysis (no, Macca was not on the trip), as they shot off the front and were steaming up the hill. Whilst there will be no public shaming here, you’ll be able to find these 2 are now joint Strava KOMs for the segment up Route 63…  [Erm.. Phil Morris???]

After reaching the top of the climb we re-grouped and took a series of obligatory selfies, with Andrew Purcell being dubbed the human selfie stick, before starting off on the descent to Dili township. The narrow and twisting country road plus continued rain fall, required everyone’s full attention on the technical descent. However, this is where Taiwan really started to show off the stunning scenery of this place. Small farming villages dotted the descent mixed with thick jungle and openings to take in views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Once down in the valley and a quick re-group, we headed through the small township of Dili and on to the Road to Nowhere. The stunning scenery continued as the road snaked along a river with mountains on both sides. Given that the road is rarely traveled and in poor condition, it kept everyone very focused on staying upright. In Liam’s case, he was so focused on the road that he introduced himself to the front of a van coming in the other direction. You can hardly blame him though as it was likely the first car to travel along the road in days. After a brief stop to make everything is ok we were all relieved that he was ok and managed to continue on.

The final part of the day brought us to a 15km climb back to Sun Moon Lake. However gradual it may be, it inflicted plenty of pain on some weary legs after the huge ride the previous day. Everyone was more than happy to get through it and back to the hotel for a well deserved beer!

The culinary segment of the trip saw us go to Sun Moon Lake’s finest Italian restaurant later in the evening. With many of the team ordering 2 mains of pasta there was plenty of carb loading in preparation for day 3.

Sun Moon Lake Taiwan | Day 3

DAY 3 | Mt Yushan | Jade Mountain
165km | 3,070m elevation
https://www.strava.com/activities/585177017
By Scott Leadbetter

The weekend so far had been much tougher than expected and absolutely stunning all the same. Day one (Wuling) was a crippler and then day two (err… rest day) was highly brutal at times so going into day three we really had no rest day at all.

The evening before we all enjoyed a carbo loading Italian feast which proved critical and felt like a scene from the last supper. The pros who had done the trip previously were basically hitting us with the low down i.e. it’s as tough as Wuling, it’s a longer day in the saddle and has a total climb of 3,200m. Brilliant.

Before the trip it was always going to be like yeh – come at me!!! I can eat any of this up, however, after 2 days in Taiwan the negatives soon get in to your head and you start thinking, core blimey! Early night it is then post beers, of course, with Ben, Alex, Phil, Laura, Andrew, Liam etc..

Rise and shine it’s butt whipping time. Following breakfast and washing my bike I arrived at the roll off point and was greeted by Ben and Alex…wait… where are the others??!? “You’re late Scott, what’s going on?” Ahh yeh, my bad, sorry. So that was it the two fastest lads were not happy, awkward!

Anyway off we went in our professional three piece rotating ‘chase group’, sun was blazing jersey unzipped, I felt like Geraint Thomas whizzing through the south of France! The weather was fantastic, sun beating down, clear blue sky with the odd fluffy cloud – this is awesome, surely the weather has no chance of changing and this will be with us all day, right? Right?

The route for day three takes the final section of day two out and back again. This segment is a killer, the elevation alone is about 700m of climbing and just seems to never end, absolute torture at the end of a long day in the saddle. At the end of this segment are a pair of tunnels which unofficially marks ‘home’. So off we are chasing the peloton and whizzing through the tunnels to then be greeted with the most enjoyable descent I’ve ever ridden. We soon caught up to a couple of stragglers and then the main group. The descent was bliss, jersey was still undone, long hairpin after hairpin dicing with death and testing each corner to get that extra km/h, such a buzz.

Alex and I soon went for it and met everybody else back at the bottom of the climb, as we were coming towards the end a random dog is just chilled out not a care in the world lying in the middle of the road, close call. There were many obstacles to be aware of on this trip, numerous grids, grates, pot holes, dogs(!) snakes etc all justifiable obstacles that could cause your life to pass before you. Worth it though.

The next section was a long rolling 30km section on one road which formed a pack of us ‘mountain muncher’ Phill Morris, Liam, Alex, Pete and myself. Although this wasn’t a dramatic 3000m ascent or descent the scenery was stunning, up and over we went through a raised road hugging the side of the mountains. Not many words were being exchanged as the pace picked up again.

Benjamin caught up after his suspected cautious descent 😉 and the pace clearly picked up again with him leading the charge. Ben and I broke away slightly with me holding on for dear life. Alas! 7 Eleven appeared, thank you sweet Jesus.

The support vehicle was supposed to meet us here for supplies, EPO, top ups etc, I forgot my salt tablets and could feel cramp rearing its ugly head so the support vehicle couldn’t have arrived sooner. Especially after making it to the top of Wuling only to find it not being there – I was praying that wouldn’t happen again.

“The support car has taken Collin back to the hotel, issue with his rear D so he’s now meeting us at 65km” said an exhausted fellow cyclist. Brilliant. Liam Winston just cycled straight past us deciding not to stop, not the first time this weekend he did this, does this guy eat? Does he drink?

We topped up at 7-Eleven and on we went to commence the main descent up Yushan. Benjamin, Alex and I pedaled away at a nice steady pace, gradually grinding the gears. No words were being exchanged at this point, just sweat, head down and grimace. We could see Liam in the distance as we crossed over a well-engineered swooping bridge. Head down hanging onto both Ben and Alex, I grab a drink, look up and Ben’s just absolutely dropped us.

Alex and I just gave each other that look as in to say, we’re not even bothering to catch him. As I’m sucking Alex’s wheel head over the bars sweating my gonads off, Alex quickly points and shouts – “SNAKE!!” What? Yep, a nice green poisonous snake located right in our line – that certainly woke me up!!

We continued along the ascent and at these points your start asking yourself questions and thinking how high you’re actually going to be climbing. All that was going through my head was salt tablets and water / coke at 65km rendez-vous with the support vehicle.

The climb was stunning and again felt like a grand tour stage so you clearly get into superman mode and believe you’re Alberto Contador taking a stage win. I think this is caused from exhaustion, altitude and a load of sugar. Basically you’re tripping balls and thinking about anything other than your legs, lungs or heart.

We got to the 65km mark and luckily the support vehicle was there, Dennis or Danny or Dave? I can’t remember but he was a big Philippino fella who always put a smile on my face. He always had gifts (when he actually turned up!). Ben was already there waiting, probably had a picnic by the time Alex and I arrived.

Then off Alex shot off to get an early dart, Ben wasn’t having that, equally he followed. Me? I just stayed there and chilled out with big Dennis eating Snickers, chatting dreams. From this point you could look up the mountainside and see the winding roads and Taiwan tunnels still to come, man they were high.

Then Phil, Pete and Liam arrived, we laughed, eat, took selfies then off I went. This was the best section of the weekend for me. I don’t mind cycling on my own and this was just perfect, the gradient wasn’t too challenging and from the 2 previous days I found my legs just felt stiff, like weak pistons. The sun was still shining the scenery was breathtaking, the road conditions were perfect and the traffic was 0. I was just thinking are their bears here?

As I climbed higher it got cooler but still totally fine. Then all of a sudden I see a tunnel pop up out of nowhere, with a pitch black entrance. Surely it’s not pitch black all the way through? I was telling myself, if it was dangerous Ben and Alex would be waiting on the other side or shouting something. Would they though? Really? Probably not.

I had no lights or reflective gear so this made me have a little wobble but bugger it, you go through. This was like a black hole and if there were any bears in this land I was certainly about to find out. The tunnel cornered round and lasted roughly 300m , it was the loneliest most vulnerable 3 minutes of my life. You couldn’t go fast as the floor was mossy and slippery, clearly the last thing you wanted to do was end up bear bait. Anyway I made it.

The climb continued and continued and continued, the climb got colder and colder and colder. I’ve never experienced cycling so high you’re above the clouds and looking down into the atmosphere, incredible. Then eventually at about 70km the heavens started to open. Holy crap, I had no wet weather gear and I knew what was in store on the descent – freezing my gonads off.

Not long after Ben and Alex flew past me on their descent “HOW MUCH FURTHER??” I shouted in a pleading manner. “It’s bloody wet up there mate” was their response. What? But what does that mean? How did they fly past me with 10km still to go?? Clearly they skipped a few km and turned around early 😉

I powered through and eventually got to these 2 trees named brothers and sisters, or mums and dads, one or the other. I was certain this was the peak as we discussed the evening before what to expect. I carried on a bit further and then turned round, it turned out I was short 1 or 2km, wasn’t happy!

Anyway, imagine the feeling when you get to the top of Faber, well I’m not even going to compare the feeling to anything remotely as insulting. This felt like euphoria.

Ohhh shit, I’m feeling cold, very cold – start descending Scott.

As I’m going the rain became harder and harder, you start to worry when you realise you have no spare puncture kit. The descent was a mix of emotions, I was in pain, I was cold, I was seizing up but then as I passed my fellow cyclists climbing up(!) in worse rain conditions – this really put a smile on my face, respecting how strong everyone truly is and how determined we all are. Fantastic and brilliant for comradery.

I was praying Dennis was at the meet point (and hadn’t buggered off), at this point I’d expected to no longer have a phone as it was sure to be saturated from the rain so if he wasn’t there I was going to die. Oh shit here’s that tunnel again, bears and snakes, wet surface – yep I’m going to die.

I got through the tunnel and like a ray of light my main man Dennis is there in his van – legend! After jumping in warming and eating up, he tells me Laura, Ben and Alex are eating 5km away. Where? How can it be? There’s nowhere to eat? It’s just one long painful lonely road? Is he fooling me to stop eating his Snickers? Here we go again altitude making me question life.

Right well if that’s the case Dennis, I trust you brother. Rain jacket on and off I go praying someone is there at 5km time. He wasn’t lying. There was a roadside Chinese style café which was awesome and just what the doctor ordered. I walked in there like a frozen solider and the three of them were there with the smiles I needed. Great to see you!

Following the fried rice and green tea and watching Ben walk through the middle of the owner’s home for a toilet break, we got back on the saddle and continued the descent back to 7-Eleven. Laura and Alex got a head start whilst me and Ben just took our time chatting rubbish, as we caught up we could see Laura at the side of the road looking suspect. As we approached there’s a dog chained up, ahh that explains it. I then just continued my descent and let the animal lover carry on her business.

The four of us regrouped at 7-Eleven had a nice warm coffee and painfully got back on the saddle for a gloomy ride back to the base of the descent we came down earlier this morning. Knowing that was still in store for us was a tough pill to swallow. As it always seemed to be during this trip, no one really waits. By the time I got on my bike Ben, Alex and Laura were long gone, nice one guys. To be fair they’d argue it was a slow pace so luckily I caught them up and we rode back together until…

The heavens did actually crack open BIG time as we approached the long ascent back, it was absolutely lashing it down. I couldn’t actually see without blinking 100mph. and the rain was took form of painful golf balls, brutal it was. Anyway this was my opportunity, Benjamin pulled away and I followed, I knew he wasn’t keen on the descents (especially in the rain) but I also knew he would drop the living daylights out of me on the climb.

I found the moment and off I went, the competitive pair we are it only seemed right. So I genuinely risked my life flying down a few descents and sharp corners in these horrific conditions to finally find myself at the base of the ascent back to Sun Moon Lake. At this point I really am feeling like Wiggins pulling in the final climb and kms to take it home. Off the saddle I got and grit my teeth for 15 minutes or whatever it was, the rain wasn’t stopping it was just getting harder, the water was flooding down the road so it felt like cycling against white water rapids (slight exaggeration).

Every corner I kept looking back thinking where is he, any minute now he’s going to pop up. Luckily I managed to turn the final swoop and there were the glorious tunnels. Welcome back Scott, welcome back. I made it and dropped Ben! Only to find out he had stopped at the bottom of the climb for 10 minutes to wait with Claire – such a gent.

It’s only on the descent where you realise how high you actually pedaled. Looking back I think it’s much easier to conquer these challenges not knowing what lies ahead, next time, if there is a next time knowing the actually route and what I have in store might actually brake me early on! This could probably reflect in other lessons in life. In essence, go for it, even if you don’t know what the outcome will be, take the risk and I’m sure it will be worth it.

Tour De Bintan | Cat 1

Donald MacDonald

My sixth TdB and its consistently my racing nemesis – usually ending in horrendous cramps in the never ending rollers out in the middle of nowhere. Except 2010 which ended in a gallon of blood and a shredded shin…

The April timing is new – a result of last years suffocating haze. However if anything, it makes the race harder as temperatures will be even more extreme. I’ve been preloading endurolytes for a week in a desperate attempt to outfox the cramps.

The Allied World CCN team were initially coming to the race with a bucketload of confidence following dominating performances in the recent Tour of Phuket and Ocbc Cycling Series. However half the team – including leaders Will and Pierre – got sick the week before which threw the plans up in the air. I racked up my best ever Crazies ride the weekend before getting sick the next day so my form is a bit of an unknown.

We’ve come with a team of 8 – pretty much the entire SG squad. Cat 1 is packed with talent this year and the main threats appear to be from the Aussie teams (Wormall CCs, Eddy Hollands), Mavs and the SwiftCarbon boys. Japanese Takei is also here, looking whippet thin.

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I took the Thursday night ferry in an attempt to avoid the annual Friday morning Tanah Merah madness. This proved to be an inspired move with the ferry being deserted. A pleasant trip and it earned me a decent lie in on the Friday Am.

PROLOGUE | 12km

Friday’s TT was on a new course – 12km out and back with a few sharp hills and a hard headwind on the way out. Despite some dedicated training and a sweet, penis revealing skinsuit, I totally messed the ride up. I went out too hard and blew before halfway. The constant undulations and the corners threw me and I never hit any kind of rhythm. I ended up with a time of 19:00 – 30th in the positioning which was well down on expectation.

Pierre missed the podium by 1 second and came in apologising! Will had been sick all week and was disappointed with his ride. Adam proved to be our unexpected hero by pulling a Top 10 ride! The day’s bad news was compounded when Vic departed after the TT to deal with some family stuff. Bad day all round leading to a subdued dinner table.

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STAGE 1 | 153 kms

The queen stage kicked off with the usual fan fair, anthems and speeches in a dilapidated bus station.

The team strategy was hatched and broadly aligned with the Mavs plan also. Make the Wormall team work as much as possible for 1st hundred 100kms…The first 50km ended up being very tactical. Overall speed wasn’t high but was peppered with regular attacks off the front from various groups. I got in a couple before bedding down towards the back of the group.

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At 50km, Pierre got up the road with Ben, Yusoff, Will, Hoops and Andreas. This was good for us and we then tried managing the bunch to disrupt the chase – mostly led by Swift Carbon and Wormall. Takei took the front after hearing the Gap was at 2 minutes and quickly wound it up to 55.

The new double pass of the Red Road and April temperatures started its killing spree and the occasional bodies started popping off the back. I got my first cramps at 80km but was hopeful they’d be kept in check…

Bizarrely we passed a baby kitten sitting in the middle of the road. How 40 riders managed to avoid it was a mystery but I was grateful to see it walk away unscathed. A couple of roosters appeared later to add to the menagerie.

At 100km, we were on a fast downhill and some small gaps appeared. Takei gave Raoul a helpful small push to help close the gap. Somehow this sent Raoul shooting off the road at 60km and he ended up riding on the loose rock. Amazingly he kept the bike up although punctured and was now looking at a long solo ride home.

At 106km on a punchy rise, my legs succumbed to the long threatening cramps and I watched the peloton slowly easing out of sight. I did the remaining 45km solo and alone. Water support was non existent until the static station 20km from the end and I was cramping like crazy by then. </p><p> I eventually crawled in 20 minutes down on the leaders to discover that PA’s break had been caught and the big man had also cramped and dropped. Takei ended up taking the stage from a breakaway with Bastian. One consolation was that PA had grabbed the KoM jersey.

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Sunburned as hell and with bizarrely cramping hands, an afternoon of junk food, crisps and electrolytes was swiftly ordered.

STAGE 2 | 107kms

Breakfast didn’t give me much confidence. The legs were still shaky and appetite weak. A few salt tabs on the start line helped matters and I was feeling spritely by the time we rolled through the Nirwana roundabout.

My biggest concern of the day was getting dropped on the first rollers to Checkpoint Charlie. To counteract this, I took the front and set the pace up the old KOM climb – thereby ensuring it was a manageable speed for me. Next challenge was the proper KoM at 20km. PA had to score Top points in the KoM and we had to stop Wormall getting any to ensure that his jersey was safe. Unfortunately the Wormall boys did a 3 man lead out which we just missed. PA took 4th for our 1st bit of bad luck for the day.

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Bad luck struck again at 40km when Pierres chain snapped – a relatively common occupancy for the big dude.

I got off the front a few times – including a 10 minuter through the local township. The screaming kids more than made up for the screaming legs. Eventually Clarson and some SwiftCarbon boys came over to me but I was burnt and popped on the next decent climb to be reabsorbed into the peleton.

Bad luck #3 struck at 80km when a road full of glass suddenly appeared. Adam – still Top 10 – was taken out along with Kahu. He went on to lose 5 minutes. Will also picked up a slow front wheel puncture which put paid to the sprint.

I dropped just before the KoM and cruised home with Adam. A tough weekends racing with little to show for it – beyond the sunburn and a multitude of empty beer cans.

Overall, the TT and Sunday were good but Saturday remains too gruelling and reliant on avoiding cramps. The gouging costs – in particular the 1000% markup on water in the restaurant – left a bad taste in the mouth. Still, it’s a classic event in the local calendar and I’m sure we’ll all be back next April.

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