Friday, November 11, 2011

Tour De Manawatu - Roadie For a Day

After a hectic stint at work (the new store is open now!!! Visit us at the new Mitre 10 MEGA in Featherston Street!), I decided I needed to get out on two wheels... ANY two wheels. It just so happened that the store had sponsored the Tour De Manawatu bike race, so what better opportunity to go and thrash my weary legs?! Not one to do things in halves, I decided on the long course, which was 116km (noone seemed to believe me when I told them it really isn't THAT much of a long day!). So we were standing on the start line in the drizzling rain and cold and as I looked around me, I realised that it was possibly quite evident that I was a mountain biker... My carbon Pinarello road bike was dirtier than most mountain bikes would be, I had SPD pedals and my helmet was still covered in mud splash from my last foray on dirt (something which a number of other riders kindly pointed out)... I also didn't seem too bothered by the rain, which was a dead giveaway that I was a mountain biker. At the race briefing, I was quite stoked when they mentioned our new MEGA store that was celebrating it's opening weekend, and let out a giant "YEEEEOOOW!" which caused the entire field of riders to turn around and look at me... From that point on for the day, I was known as "MEGA GIRL"... "Best I take care not to snot on anyone, swear at anyone, crop dust another rider or lecture anyone on dropping their rubbish if I am to maintain our company image" I thought to myself.

We headed off in a fairly civil manner, and after an impressive save when another rider fell on me at the start line whilst trying to clip in, we were off... I axed myself along Napier road... Mainly to keep up with Sasha, but also to try and get into a large bunch to protect me from the rather nasty wind that was blowing my small 50kg frame all over the road. We finally caught quite a sizable bunch and settled in to be protected from the wind... Being a smaller rider, there is rarely any chance that I will get stuck splitting the wind at the front of the pack (Sasha and Mike inadvertently took that role), but it also means that very few riders want to sit behind me (I've been told I am like drafting off a twig), so it's fairly standard fare for me to get spat out the back and spend the entire length of the race hanging on for dear life, or chasing down the bunch I just lost (I don't think I've quite figured out this roadie thing yet!). Today was no different, and although I managed to work my way into the middle of the pack a couple of times for an easy ride, I found myself working quite hard... The bunch we were in was also fairly disorganised and wasn't rolling through or making much sense to me at all, so it was rather hard to get a drink/something to eat whilst hanging on to the back because chances are the pack would suddenly accelerate or slow down or someone would change line in front of me the moment I chose to try and eat or drink, so I didn't really keep myself very well-fuelled. This actually wasn't too much of a problem when I was with the bunch. I was protected from the wind and didn't have to expend a great deal of energy.

At the 90km mark, however, we descended this big sweeping bend... I backed off the pedals because it was off camber and looked really slick in the wet... I was right... It was really slick. The guy in front of us slid sideways and hit the deck sliding along the asphalt on his bum (OUCH!)... By the time Sasha and I checked he was ok (because that's what mountain bikers do), the bunch had moved on. With very little left in the tank to give chase, I got dropped and my speed nearly halved in the wind... I took the opportunity to slow down and refuel a bit instead of burying myself and got back into a bit of a rhythm by myself. I only had 25km to go, but I was pretty keen to get some food in my belly and a hot shower. As I passed through Feilding, a group of four riders who had been dropped from the same bunch some time ago came past and I jumped on the back. I felt really bad that I had nothing much left to cycle through with them (even though I wouldn't have offered much protection from the wind, I did feel obliged to earn my turn). I held on to about 5km from the finish and then dropped off again, but didn't have far left to go (thanks number 41!!).

I crossed the finish line in 3 hours 47 minutes, only a few minutes behind Sasha and about 7 minutes behind the bunch I had been dropped by (it makes a huge difference being in a bunch!). It was a good day on the bike and when I checked the results after, I found I had come 9th in the overall women's ranking and 3rd in my division... Not bad for a mountain biker on a dirty road bike!!!

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