The final push.
I think most of us woke up in Hamilton wondering how our legs could possibly be even more sore than the day before. But they were. Yesterday’s gruelling 122km stage in the rain was also generally completed by most groups quite a bit faster than last year. This could be because the size of the field is bigger (roughly 100 more riders), and being the very last BDO W2A people may also be giving it everything they’ve got!
Some of the riders have been hit with diarrhoea the past few days but valiantly carried on. Apparently one of the stock trucks that passed us during one of the many wet stages was leaking effluent onto the road which of course was then sprayed upwards by our our tyres – eeeeeew.
Like most competitors in the past two days I’ve given up trying to eat healthily at breakfast. It’s now straight to the cooked buffet section – bacon, poached eggs, hash browns, baked beans and toast piled high. It will be a challenge for us to break this habit next week!
We all congregate at the Hamilton office of BDO, who have once again come to the party with an espresso cart for us all. After huge downpours overnight it’s now a warm morning with no wind, and overcast – perfect conditions!
All 250 riders are led out through Hamilton’s CBD then motorway – the neutral zone is quite a sight. There is a really happy buzz amongst the riders. Friendships through rivalry have formed over the course of the week; the competition has been fierce but sport is a great leveller, and it’s been lovely to share a beer and tales with one another each night.
Today is split into two stages – roughly 73km to Glen Murray and 37km from there to Pukekohe. Neither have any extreme hills to climb, but both have some tough pinches where breaks will form.
The race for first place in our corporate section is well and truly red hot. It will come down to the wire between ASB GoBros and Fit for Farming – interestingly both teams’ roots lie in rural business. They’ve been fantastic advocates and ambassadors for their communities.
The first stage is raced at an electric pace – we average around 39kph. The final 5km is really lumpy and you have to hit the pinches carrying momentum in your big ring: drop to the small ring and spin and you’ll be spat out. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, but we are all saddened to see an individual age group leader lying on the road ahead of us; the unfortunate fellow has broken his leg in a fall and subsequently gets choppered out. Our wishes go out to him for a speedy recovery.
We have a two hour break between stages. This is tough! Getting back on the bike after such a quick first stage will be painful for the posterior. But it’s only 37km, and most of us don’t eat too much, instead relying on caffeine and sugar for the final assault.
The last stage is a beauty – Tour de France drama. The aforementioned corporate teams are locked in a battle for first place. ASB get away four of their team on one of the first climbs and it appears they’ve got it sewn up; then 10km later two of their riders drop back screaming to one of their dropped team mates to sacrifice his bike as they’ve suffered an irreparable mechanical. Game on! The Fit for Farming boys quite rightly up the pace, but miraculously the ASB team break from us, and yet again it appears they’ve got it in the bag… But the leading break aren’t singing from the same hymn sheet and they’ve dropped the hammer. After all that effort the ASB riders are left in no mans land. It comes down to the sprint…
At the finish line there is quite a crowd of supporters. The Auckland office of BDO have put on a sterling BBQ accompanied by chilled beers. The sun is out and it’s warm. At last!
We all then come hoofing into the finish line via a few very tight roundabouts. Position is crucial. The sprint on a slightly downhill gradient is on! It’s an amazing feeling to finish the tour, but also in such dramatic conditions – the huge crowds, and the tension of team racing.
ASB take the corporate team competition by just a single point over Fit for Farming – 200 points vs 199! Well done to both teams!
We all relax and imbibe in the sun. Some of us pack our bikes into our cases and tear off to the airport to catch flights. The rest enjoy an emotional farewell prize giving.
I must say a special thank you to Stephen, Nathan and Ana. They’ve put on the final W2A, and it’s been a rip snorter.
Will we ride tomorrow? We probably shouldn’t but I suspect many of us will!