Once again, we have found ourselves a new home - this time in the Angus Inn Hotel in Lower Hutt just outside of Wellington. The scenery has been fantastic, with the weather a little colder than we are used to, but all in all New Zealand is living up to its hype. In just four days I've determined that I definately have to come back to do some further exploring at some other point. The hills look inviting for training and the mountains growing out of the ocean are picturesque.
Having said that, it hasn't been smooth sailing...I'm happy to report that the Aussie attitude towards customer care has indeed transferred over to the airline industry where, as per expectation, we encountered a great deal of hullaballoo in getting the bikes on board. However, a long walk to a different terminal by Chris and two new shiny bike boxes later (retail $16.00) later, we were on our way...unfortunately the bikes weren't. Despite our appearance at the airport 3 hours prior to departure, we arrived in Wellington to be greeted by only one of our bikes. Now, out of a possible four, would you guess which one arrived? That's right, none other than Chris' track bike...talk about useful! Luckily our road bikes showed up about 12 hours later (just in time for the downtown parade), but my track bike would be another 24 hours in arrears. You might not think that to be a problem, but my tools and all my cycling kit was in that box - hence an issue...but I made it through. Is does make me ponder the fact that they will let you stay seated on the runway for hours if you make it to the plane without your bags on board, but they can choose to delay your bags??? I will NEVER understand the airline industry!
Anyway, with all that behind me, on Wednesday night with took to the first stage of the New Zealand Trust House Tour being a criterium right here in downtown Lower Hutt. The course was awesome - nice and technical and exciting. The race itself was quite tame as a group of 8 got off the front with all the major teams represented, so people were minimally motivated to chase. As I was just trying to get my legs underneath me, I was okay with that! I was well positioned throughout the race until about 3 laps to go when I was pushed right into a massive pylon and forced to come to a complete standstill before heading wide off course. I didn't realize just how good my position had been up until that point as a good 60-70 riders must have passed me. In the end, it didn't make a difference as the commissaires made a mistake and pulled all the riders except for those lapped off course (which was completely contrary to what they had mentioned in the manager's meeting). Consequently, those of us in the bunch all tied for 9th position (good thing that they spent thousands of dollars putting state of the art computer chips on our fork blades!) Speaking of managers - Chris has been fantastic! He's been running around like a pro and helping us out a great deal - three cheers for Chris! Unfortunately, in all the bustle, he has not had time to find his camera and so we are yet again pictureless...sorry!
Anyways, so yesterday was the famous double day - starting with a 100km roadrace in the morning, followed by a 1 hour crit in the evening. With only a few hours between the two, we ended up racing almost 150km! Now, that's a big day! The roadrace went okay. We all rolled along the undulating terrain for about 50km before hitting 20km of real hills. They went up and up and culminated on what felt like a mountain pass. Early on I was shed off with a group of other girls, but we managed to make it over the obstacles and rolled in nicely, 15 minutes behind the frontrunners. Not stellar - but stronger than I would have done last year. I just need to learn to push myself that little bit harder on the hills - I think my lack of confidence and experience at being able to stay in the pack on climbs shined through!
Once in the town of Masterston we were fed finger foods as a turn around before the crit. The crit was a thing of beauty - unreal fast and fun technical corners. It was fast enough that I saw a few good names blow up - including Rochelle Gilmore who saw her demise directly in front of me. I spent most of the crit near the mid to rear (I was sure that Chris would heckle me for it), but funny enough, when it was strung out, that was the most consistent speed. I had a good time picking one or two girls off each corner and slowly yo-yoing through the bunch. The best compliment I received however, came from Tina Pic (who is not only 4 time US crit champion but one of the NICEST people in the world!) who said that I was riding well. She complimented me on my positioning in the roadrace...good to see that I've re-established my confidence in the pack - it's just so much fun moving up through it! With one lap to go, one of the Chinese riders let a gap go as she was being dropped. I gave it my all to close it, but apparently the average speed for the lap was 47km/h, and as you might have guessed, I didn't succeed. I did managed to hold steady though, so that was good. Which leads us to the final stage this morning - the time trial. I can only hope that it was more successful than my TT last weekend, and due to the number of no shows and others who decided that it wasn't worth blowing the energy before Sunday's World Cup event, I feel that I might be charging up the GC - maybe top 75??? We haven't got the results yet, so I'm just not sure. The wind was howling, but I gave it a go and hey, I got a finish for the Tour, which is more than I can say for a good deal of the 124 starters. A finish is always a strong thing to have under my belt and I'm stoked for Sunday which will bring us around a 6.2km circuit 20 times. Apparently there are 2 power climbs per lap, but I can only imagine that 40 power climbs will zap the legs! I'll let you know...until next time!