Tour de Vineyards 2014

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The Tour de Vineyards has just finished and I it has been a very interesting 5 days. It’s always a pleasure to race in my home town of Nelson and this year has been great. The tour was very well organised and the racing was tough from start to finish.

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The tour began with a 9.3km time trial around the Mt. Heslington Circuit on New Year’s Eve. This stage was won convincingly by Jason Christie from the newly revamped Breads of Europe – All About Plumbing Cycling Team. I struggled through this stage, feeling flat from a hard week’s training beforehand. While it would have been nice to start the tour with a better performance I was just keen for some hard racing to help me tune up for the Elite Nationals next weekend and the New Zealand Cycle Classic at the end of January.

January 1st 2014 started with a monster of a storm rolling through Nelson and I was woken up by the thunder very early in the morning! Thankfully the worst of the rain blew through before the start of stage 2 and we had fairly good conditions for most of the race. Stage 2 was at times confusing and frustrating as small groups slipped off the front during the first few laps and I always managed to miss them! During the 4th of 8 laps an organised chase was looking more and more unlikely. I attacked up the final climb at the end of the 4th lap and before long we had a group of four (including yellow jersey Jason Christie) committed to trying to cross the 1:30 gap to the front of the race. Unfortunately we didn’t quite have the legs to close the gap and that’s how we finished four laps later; about 1:30 down on the stage winner Regan Gough.

Now a long way down on GC and with no points in the KOM or Sprint classifications I needed to race aggressively on stage 3 (the Neudorf Circuit) to try and salvage something. I felt great and I worked hard in the opening kilometres of the stage to establish a break and by the top of the first climb 10km into the stage we had a group of 8 with a slim advantage over the peloton. Our group worked well together and we started to gain some time but before long a stomping Jack Bauer managed to cross the gap alone. We kept our heads down and kept riding hard and held a 1-2 minute lead over the first of 2 60km laps.

The 2nd lap didn’t go quite as smoothly: the peloton closed our lead down to just 30sec and L&M rider Scott Thomas jumped across to us. Shortly after the 2nd ascent of Neudorf Hill Hayden McCormick also bridged the gap. He was very close to the lead on GC and if our group were to stay away to the finish he would most likely be taking home the yellow jersey. I was happy to work hard with him as all I wanted was to win the stage. Fortunately we managed to hold off the chasing group and fight for the stage win. It was a hard uphill sprint and I finished 2nd behind a flying Tom Hubbard (Breads of Europe) with Scott Thomas in 3rd.

The morning of the 3rd of Jan was drizzly again but thankfully the weather cleared just as Stage 4 began in Wakefield. I made the breakaway again and we were lucky to have another strong and fairly cohesive group like the day before. The stage finished at the summit of the Takaka Hill Climb and our goal was to reach the bottom of the hill with as much time as possible over the peloton. We managed to reach the climb with around 5 minutes lead which left us with a good shot of staying away for the finish!

As soon as we hit the climb, Ryan Wills who had been riding strongly all week, attacked and opened up a gap. I found myself in a group of 5 which slowly but surely dwindled down to 2 by a third of the way up the climb. We found a good rhythm and rode hard all the way but it wasn’t enough to bring back a flying Wills. Wills beat us in by about 45 seconds and I finished the day 3rd. I was really pleased with my climb, I’d say it’s the best I’ve ever ridden up there! As an added bonus the time we gained was enough to boost me up to 2nd on GC, just over a minute behind new leader Ryan Wills.

Going into stage 5 my focus was solely on taking that minute back and winning the tour. I felt like I was in with a real chance and the only way to make it happen was to race aggressively from the gun. Stage 5 was the undulating Hill St Circuit in Richmond. For each of the 17km laps I did everything I could to shake Wills and take the tour win. I wasn’t the only one within striking distance who was having a go; Hayden McCormick and a few other also rode very aggressively. But Wills was on a mission and had an answer to every attack… he kept the lead and I had to settle for 2nd. Jack Bauer took the victory on the stage with a very impressive solo effort in the last lap!

The Tour de Vineyards was a successful week and I’m really happy with 2nd place. The win is always the goal but that is my best finish in my home tour and I’m very pleased. Congratulations to Ryan for the win, very impressive! And a big thank you to Tasman Wheelers for putting on a well-organised and enjoyable race!

Now after a very solid week it’s time to back off, recover and get ready for nationals…

Tour of Britain – Stage 1: Grim

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Today we started the 2013 Tour of Britain and I am absolutely stoked to be here racing. This has been the goal right from the beginning of the season and I am thrilled to have been selected and to finally be here doing it. If you don’t have a proper mountain bike, you can opt for the best mountain bike under 1000$ which would help you to be a part of this race.

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Unfortunately my final week of preparation didn’t really follow the script. I picked up a stomach bug mid-week and it really knocked me around. I recovered quickly thankfully but it’s taking a little while for my energy levels (and stomach) to feel normal. I can only hope that I get better and better as the tour progresses!

Stage 1 began in the peaceful Scottish town of Peebles and wound it’s way around 210km of rolling country to finish up at Drumlanrig Castle. The weather was grim from the word go and a steady headwind around most of the course ensured that we were out there for as long as possible!

This was one of the stages that I had hoped to target as there was a good chance of a bunch kick but unfortunately my body wasn’t playing the game today. I lost contact on a small climb with about ten km to go and any hope of rejoining the group was quickly dashed by a puncture.

Stoked for my Node4 teammate Jimmy Williamson who got up in the finish to slide into the top ten. Fellow kiwis Shane Archbold and Aaron Gate also did an awesome job today with Shane finishing 7th and Gatey taking the lead in the sprint jersey.

186km around the Lake District tomorrow with some challenging climbs and similar weather to today. I’ll be heading to bed tonight hoping to wake up feeling more normal!

2014 – Budget Forklifts

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I am very excited to begin the new year by announcing my new team for this season: Team Budget Forklifts! After the dream year that the team had in 2013 I feel very fortunate to now be a part of such a successful and well drilled outfit. The team dominated the NRS series in Australia and notched up some solid international results. The single kiwi on the 2013 team (my good mate Sam Horgan) performed incredibly, winning the Melbourne-Warnambool, Tour of the Great South Coast and more. There are now 5 NZ riders on the team: Wes Gough, Sam Horgan, Michael Vink, Myron Simpson and me.

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My time with the team kicked off with a training camp on the Gold Coast in December. It was a good chance to meet all the riders, management and sponsors and start to soak up the culture and spirit of the team. There was even some time for a spot of training on our new Cervelo rocket ships: S5 road bikes and P5 time trial bikes. These bikes are mind-blowingly fast: cutting-edge aerodynamics, stiffness and light weight. What more could you ask for in a bike?!

I’m home in Nelson at the moment visiting my family for the first time in way too long and racing the Tour de Vineyards while I’m here. It’s always good fun racing at home on the roads where I used to train and catching up with familiar faces from my cycling club Tasman Wheelers.

Next up is the Elite National Championships in Christchurch and preparations seem to be on track so far. Looking forward to donning the yellow and black for the time trial on the 10th of January and racing alongside the rest of the kiwi division of the Budget Forklifts Team for the road race on the 12th of January!

Tour of Britain – Stage 2: Down and Out

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When I woke up yesterday morning I was hopeful that I would be better than day 1. Sadly I was wrong.

As we got underway I still didn’t feel flash but I put in a lot of effort in the first half hour to get a Node4 jersey into the day’s breakaway. It was a tough battle in a blustery headwind until finally one stuck with Mike Northey making the group. Soon after, the rain that had been promised began to fall and the temperature plummeted with it.

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My day started to unravel when I was brought down in a big crash about 2 hours in. As bodies and bikes hit the road in front of me I spied a small gap and went for it. I thought I’d made it through unscathed when a flying bike dropped down in front of me and cleaned out my front wheel. I hit the ground hard…

I picked myself up and quickly assessed the damage to myself (nothing broken thankfully) and my bike (broken shifter and buckled wheel). I rolled along as best I could until the team car got up to me and I swapped onto a spare bike. After a quick chase it was business at usual, rolling along through the Lake District in the rain.

As we began to hit the bigger hills of the stage I really started to suffer. When the pace went up I had nothing left to give and I found myself slipping backwards through the group on the climbs. After spending some quality time in the convoy and giving it absolutely everything to stay in the race I finally lost contact.

I was absolutely gutted but still held onto a glimmer of hope that I could make it to the finish inside the time limit. This didn’t last long as I was becoming colder and colder and felt so weak I had almost completely stopped. I knew my tour was over; ruined by a very poorly timed stomach bug which had sapped my strength in the crucial final week before the race.

I’m out of the tour now and my UK season is finished. It would have been great to finish with a strong performance in the Tour of Britain, especially as this race has been my focus for the entire season; but, you can’t control everything and sometimes things don’t go to plan no matter how well prepared you are!

Good luck to my team Node 4 Giordana for the next 6 days of racing. I wish I was still racing with the boys but I’m sure they will do a great job and I’ll be watching! For me it’s time to take a bit of time off and look ahead to what’s next…