Monday, February 9, 2009

Ruapehu Cycle Classic

After hearing some of the Meo GP boys were heading up to the 160km Ruapehu Cycle Classic, I decided a few days out to enter. The idea of riding on the Desert Road was too hard to turn down as it seemed like a once in a life time opportunity to race through the area. The Meo GP was represented by David Meo (Davis), Brent Backhouse (Backy), Jonathan Hales (Jono), Craig Loveridge (Lovers) and me, racing in my Subway Avanti team kit.
All the guys arrived at my place on Friday after lunch to re-pack into two cars for the drive up, hoping to leave the wild winds of Wellington behind for a few days. In the car, everyone was talking up their big race plans, putting on their game faces and firing up for the next day. 

We stopped a few times to empty the tanks out and had a coffee stop in Taihape, before reaching our accommodation in Ohakune.

Our resident master chef, Jono, cooked up a pasta feast that you would expect to be served at the best restaurant in town, it was a mix of zesty lemon, ham, bacon, mmm... what a mix of flavors! 

This topped off a good first day, as on arrival we managed to head out for a 45 minute spin to loosen up the legs, so dinner was the icing on the cake. A big thanks to Jonathan for the top notch pre-race dinner.
5.30am, race day. Staggering down into the kitchen, still pitch black outside, thinking I must have got the alarm time wrong. Next minute the kitchen is alive with action, coffee being made a range of ways, plunger, stove top. Toast, bananas, yogurt, muesli, secret smoothies, all being munched down in the speed breakfast, with Hell on Wheels playing on the tv in the lounge for last minute motivation.


30 minutes later and we were all kitted up and ready to roll down to the start. At this stage the sun was slowly coming up from behind the mountain, what a great view, a nice crisp start to the morning and not a breath of wind about this sleepy town.
On the start line I pointed out to the guys a few riders to watch and stay close to during the race, so as to stay out of trouble and be handy in the bunch if the hammer went down. Bang from the gun three slightly crazy riders attack and take to the 160km head on. We had Backy up there, which was good as we didn't have to go to the front and help with the chase. They managed to get a massive lead in just a few kilometers, with the gap at 2 or 3 minutes.
After approximately 20km the bunch was not showing any interest in putting up a chase. I wanted to see what would happen if I rolled off the front... so I rolled off. Joined shortly after by Davis and never to be seen again by the bunch. By the time we had reached Waiouru, 5km later we had at least a minute gap back, so we put our heads down and went for it.

On the Desert Road we had a nice tail wind to help ramp up the speed... closing the gap to the break with every pedal stroke. The lead break had dropped a rider and we soon picked up and dropped him on our quest of joining the front 2 riders, Backy and Tom Findlay.
On the second main climb of the Desert Road, Davis was slowly realising he would much rather be on a motor bike than a push bike, and started to drop off my wheel. I eased off at the top and Davis came back, then I picked it up and started driving it again, getting the call that I was crazy and to go off alone to reach the front!

After a hard effort and roughly 5km passed, I joined the break, making it Backy, Tom Findlay and myself out front. Backy and I lapped it out for about 10km, with Tom as a passenger. On a rise I put in an attack and instantly got a gap. 

Now I had to back the attack up by riding solo to the finish, only another 100 kilometers! Knocking back gel after gel to keep the energy up, taking in all the great views of the mountain, counting down k after k, minute after minute. I even managed to hold on to a piss the whole trip, thinking this is the craziest solo ride I've ever done. 

After turning off the Desert Road, heading towards National Park, it was an uphill, headwind, dead road most of the way. At times I was going as slow as 15km/h - somehow each time this happened I picked myself back up with some strong words of encouragement. After hearing my first time check with 20km to go (5 minutes back to next group of 3 riders) I was was pretty happy and confident that I would be able to hold on to the finish. Thankfully the last last 10km were fast roads and I came roaring into the finish, arms raised and a yell of relief. What a great feeling to win my fist race of the '09 season.

Post race, we headed back to the pad, to relax, eat and take a quick nap before heading down to the prize giving and a few celebratory drinks. Top weekend.



The People's Champion said...

So you didn't want Tom sitting on then????? ;)

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