On the Friday night, however, we had a very cool Team dinner at the nearby Gladstone Pub. The Team was joined by Susy and Chris's great friend and supporter, PRV sponsor Ric Reid - a cool guy who I have known for many years. Ric is an ex-National Champion, Tour of Wellington winner and Olympian to boot...
The dinner was great fun, as everyone let their hair down over a few wines, told old war stories, and engaged in pointless banter ad nauseaum.
Saturday dawned to heavy rain. I had cleaned and checked the bikes after the stage finish, so my day was looking pretty relaxed. Susy, Chris and I headed into Masterton to find some internet access - one downside of the Overlook was that no one had been able to get online, which was particularly hard on Ruth who couldn't Skype her two young daughters. Dotsie and Steph also couldn't contact home, and the Kiwis had to wander down the property until we could get cellphone reception to talk to our loved ones. Not much fun in the pissing rain!
We hit Masterton and sampled a few cafe treats along with the obligatory coffee or five. After discovering that the one internet cafe was closed, Susy booked time at the Discovery Centre for later on, so we headed back home for a while. Ruth and Lauren wanted to keep their legs turning over, so both had turns on the windtrainer.
Ruth trying in vain to set up Susy's battered windtrainer. It took me jamming clothespeg into the guts to get it to work!
Once Ruth had finished Lauren jumped on. After putting in a huge effort throughout the Tour Lauren wasn't riding the 1.1, as she was trying to shake her creeping lurg before heading down to the following week's Track Nationals in Invercargill - she won gold in the 20km Scratch Race - and eventually onto Track Worlds in Poland. Rosara Joseph would be taking her place in the race.
Steph couldn't face the trainer, so in typical Vancouver hard-woman style she donned appropriate attire and headed out for an easy spin in the rain, returning just as Chris, Susy and I headed off to Masterton for the second time that day.
As Susy caught up with a ton of work on the computer, Chris and I headed to the Managers meeting at the Copthorne. We had a beer with Marcel Bengston, the delighted and magnanimous coach of the MB Cycles team that took the Tour overall. Great also to catch up with several other race personnel in the bar. After the meeting, which Chris kindly let me sit in on, my great friend and star wrench Paul Larkin showed me the MB HQ, and their delectable collection of thoroughbred race weaponry.
After that I headed back to base to join the Team for dinner. We were joined by Peter and Alexis, the generous owners of the Overlook. As the Team slowly dispersed to their rooms to pack and tidy up I had one last look over the bikes in anticipation of the coming day's exertions. Steph had done a great job of cleaning her rig after the rainy ride, so I just ran through all the gears and checked for tyre cuts again. All good.
As I lined the bikes up my camera observed the eerie and unexplained phenomenon known as Orbs, adding to the slightly spooky air of the deserted hallways of the Overlook.
As we would be departing the Wairarapa to the airport immediately following the race, we had to pack up as much as possible, so I spent the last part of the evening cramming the van with as much of the Team gear as I could pack. I took this shot in the morning. Note Susy's frame on top sans wheels, which I was using as spares after annoyingly not being able to retrieve my own spare set before heading away from a local rider I'd loaned them to.
The rain had been falling heavily all night, so everyone was prepared for the worst, but as we ate breakfast and finished the final loading the rain abated and patches of clear sky appeared - it was very cold though...
As we raced in convoy to the start in Masterton the rain still loomed heavily over the Tararua Ranges - the girls half hoped it would stay away, but also knew that without a dedicated sprinter the rain could be a defining element on this dead flat course, which could possibly play into our hands.
We arrived at the start in plenty of time, so I got busy pumping tyres as the others all performed their usual pre-race tasks. Note Dotsie trying hard to pimp her sponsors nutritional products.
As I mentioned earlier, Rosara Joseph would be joining us for the race. What I didn't mention was that she was backing up from a wet, muddy and gruelling MTB National Championships the day before! Rosara had won by a dominating ten minute margin in appalling conditions, then jumped on a plane to Wellington and was driven over in the morning by her brother just in time to join us. I gave her bike a quick check over, added a transponder and race number, then she was ready to race again. What a hard out!
While we made busy, other Teams all around the Town Square were doing the same. Here are some of Paul's MB Cycles Team nutting out final details.
Then his Teammate Kirsty Broun needed a quick cleat adjustment. I made a joke about it being good to see Paul do some work and was amused to hear Kirsty's terse defence of his work ethic - clearly she thought I was serious! Having worked side by side with Paul until all hours in arduous conditions on many races I know very well that he will work until there is no more work to be done, and then some, so she couldn't have been further from the truth.
I turned back to my own Team, who were all ready to go. Just time enough for some cheerful words of encouragement from Susy and Chris before the off. Lauren was going to sit the first half of the race out on the sidelines, then join us in the car with food and coffee for the latter stages...
We joined the convoy in position 3, which was drawn from a hat at the Manager's meeting.
The Cup was being held over 14 laps of an 8.5km circuit, with no hills. A few road islands, some sharp corners and two crossings of some railway lines (with a possible two trains coming through!) were the only obstacles, so a sprint finish was the expectation. We hoped to put the hurt on through relentless attacking, with a view to getting Ruth up there in the finale - her hill climbing chops are augmented by a fierce sprint which has surprised more than one specialist at times...
We set off to a fairly sedate pace, as the field warmed up their legs.
But as the laps ticked down the attacks started coming, and there were Jazz Apples/Champion Systems girls in most of them, if they weren't directly initiating the moves.
We kept half an eye on the weather, as the rain still loomed.
Several riders struggled as the pace kept ramping up and mechanicals and punctures hit, but some were able to fight back during the brief lulls in the battle.
Crossing the railway line near Masterton Railway Station.
One of the most dangerous things I've ever seen was this Team feed where the person in the car almost pulled the rider off her bike by her bottle as they negotiated a road island. I thought she was going down for sure, and it was only her bike handling skill that saved her.
One last pass through Masterton then my camera died again...
...not that I could have got any pics of the finale - as the speed into the finish increased, the bunch spread out more and more putting us further and further back from the action. We did see in the distance Steph putting in a fierce attack into the the last dangerous corner that almost got Ruth away, but the finish ended up being the bunch sprint we expected, won by young up and comer Chloe Hosking from my friend Steve Elden's Mercedes Benz Team. Ruth finished a superb 6th against the specialists, so not a win but a fine way to finish up this week of hard racing...
As the girls warmed down and changed Chris, Mark and I loaded up the van, then we had time for a quick and hilarious debrief...
...before Rosara headed back to Welli with her brother, and the rest of us convoyed as fast as we could to get the girls on their various flights from Wellington airport.
After dropping everyone off and saying our fond farewells, I headed home to my family. I reflected on this awesome fortnight - my overriding impression of my Jazz Apples foray was that of great pleasure at getting once again to work with my dear friends Chris Drake and Susy Pryde, as well as being around the wonderful women who make up this great Team. Thanks to Ruth Corset, Steph Roorda, Rosara Joseph, Lauren Ellis and Dotsie Bausch (as well as the absent and much missed Malindi Maclean!) for trusting me with their machines and treating me as a friend rather than just a mechanic. Also cheers to Mark Forder for his help over the week.
I wish the entire Team personnel the very best of luck for the season ahead - may your wheels remain true and your chammies soft!
Talking about true wheels, the girls were fortunate to have got through the Tour and Cup without a single mechanical or puncture...phew!
Here are a couple of links to some great photos courtesy of Roadcycling.co.nz - the Tour and the Cup.
And here is the official Jazz Apples press release:
Jazz Apple made a worthy start to their 2009 racing season racing in the Tour of New Zealand and UCI category 1.1 event in Masterton this past week. The Tour of New Zealand was the first outing for the 2009 composition of athletes, and their efforts shone with promise for the season ahead as Ruth Corset won the Queen of the Mountain (QOM) category, and finished 4th overall. Dotsie Bausch orchestrated the key QOM lead outs for Ruth, which resulted in an almost clean sweep of mountain points while younger athletes, Lauren Ellis and Steph Roorda played (extraordinary) pivotal support roles that were impressive in strength and effect.
In the crucial final stage of the Tour, Lauren, Steph and Dotsie launched Ruth from the main peleton to bridge a two minute gap held by seven riders. The three minute gap advised by race officials was in fact at least 5 minutes. Ruth rode impressively but was unable to reel in two of the breakaway riders but made up more than three minutes in her chase. Fourth place was disappointing but was a positive confirmation of an already cohesive and committed group in their first outing for the season.
Sunday's UCI 1.1
A flat, fast open 8.5 km circuit was not the tailored to our strengths this week, especially as Malindi Maclean, our sprinter is absent with a fractured wrist. However we were bolstered by the strong addition of Rosara Joseph, and in the last five laps, every rider on the Champion System/ Jazz Apple team catipulted to 'off the front' limelight . Our efforts were thwarted going in to the final lap by a concerted chase from the bunch, and despite not having our sprinter, Ruth finished a credible sixth in the sprint and picked up some valuable UCI points.
The week leading into the Tour of New Zealand, and during the race, the team received tremendous support from a number of kind and passionate supporters, spectators and friends. That support shone through in the confidence of the girl's throughout the racing. Thank you so much to you all.
We are looking forward to the season ahead and aiming to keep stepping up our performances at every instance.
Special thank you to our mechanic on Tour and during our training camp, Oli Brooke-White. Not only did our Fuji bikes sparkle but they were purring like cats every day...
Lauren Ellis: Track World Championships: Poland
Ruth Corset: Road events in Queensland
Dotsie Bausch: Road events in California
Steph Roorda: Pan American Games: Chile
Malindi Maclean: Road events New Zealand
Rosara Joseph: returns to UK
Upcoming team events
To be confirmed: Tour of Chong Ming Island: China
Joe Martin Stage Race: Arkansas.
Well that's it for another year, unless the Team can find the funds to get me to the USA in June that is - fingers crossed those Lotto tickets work!
Cheers for reading, Oli