Sunday, March 23, 2008

Women's Tour of Wellington Part 4

The final day of the tour consisted of two stages; a morning point-to-point Time Trial between Seatoun and Lyall Bay, then the afternoon's criterium in the heart of Wellington's Golden Mile.

As usual, up early (I'm almost getting used to it now!) and load up the wagon with the bikes, tools, stand, bottles, trainer and assorted other junk. Aurélie was with us to lend moral support, so the five of us drove from the Angus into town. Luckily after some intense rain the night before, race day dawned rain free, although the infamous NorWester that Wellington knows so well was blowing up and up as the morning went on.

We sussed out the start-line then we drove the course behind Sharon and Ruth, so they could get a feel for how the wind would affect them, and whether deep wheels would need changing for shallow ones, not to mention so they would know the way!

After a thorough recce, we followed again as the girls rode back to the start, then we detoured for the obligatory coffee in a Seatoun cafe and plotted the day.

Warming up in Seatoun

After coffee we decamped to the Seatoun foreshore, where the girls got on the windtrainer in the lee of the Prairie tailgate. Ruth and Sharon warmed up in complete calm while wheels, bottles and random riders were being blown around in the increasingly strong wind. Ruth decided she would ride her Corima deeps despite the wind - the general view was that the crosswinds usually so dangerous on deeps were minimal as the course was virtually all either full-on tail or head wind!

All of a sudden in the very middle of pre-race chaos, I got a call from Jacq at the hospital with Harry. The doctors had decided an operation was imminent, and they needed me there asap to sign consents for general and the op itself. They were saying the op would be sometime this afternoon, so naturally the race got shoved unceremoniously into the background. The only problem was that my vehicle was integral to the Team, so after much consultation it was decided that I would see out the TT then bail on the Team and head to hospital, while Chris and the girls took the van. I would pick it up later on that night, or next day depending on how things went at hospital. Of course now I was really fretting, and my thoughts were on Harry and not really the race, but still there was work to be done and he wanted me to finish off the job, so I put my game face on and got back to it...

Chris had asked me to give the girls time splits at the halfway point, so I arranged with my friend South Africa mechanic/asst. manager Paul Larkin to hitch a ride in the South Africa van, as their highest GC rider was riding two riders before Sharon. I grabbed a pair of wheels just in case of emergency, and levered myself into the SA wagon just as they peeled out behind Marissa Van Der Merwe. A quick run along the foreshore with a powerful side wind, then the tailwind pushed her up over the Pass of Branda, scene of many Wellington bunch ride skirmishes. Down into Breaker Bay, and along to my drop zone at Palmer Head. It wasn't long at all before Sharon came through 5 seconds up on her minute (wo)man, High Road's Chantal Beltman.

I had to do some impromptu traffic management before one of the awesome motorbike cops that look after the race came along and dealt to the moron trying to insert his ute and trailer between Nurnberger's Suzanne De Geode and her following car. It always amazes me how deliberately ignorant some motorists choose to be...

Before long, it was time for Ruth's minute rider to pass. Webcor's Erinne Willock was flying, and clearly wanted to wrestle that 3rd GC place from Ruth, so it was sad for me to have to point down and yell to Ruth that she was 11 seconds down at halfway - Erinne only had to make up 19 seconds on Ruth to pass her into 3rd.

After she passed, Chris quickly stopped and grabbed me and we followed Ruth into the finish. We passed poor Katheryn Mattis being tended to by her Webcor crew on the side of the road - she had crashed into a stone wall due to the wind and broken her collar-bone. From World Cup winner in Geelong to passenger in an ambulance in one fell swoop...In the end, Ruth would lose that time she was defending, as well as enough for Nurnberger's Trixi Worrack to also get past her, so she slipped down to a still awesome 5th place on GC. Along with Sharon's impressive 10th overall, they were the only composite team to get riders among the pros and national teams at the top of the leader board, making Tabak Team International's support of the women well worthwhile.

Tabak Team International jersey

After allowing them a quick warm-down, we loaded up and drove to Roadworks Service Course to collect Chris's stashed singlespeed beater and trailer - he and Susy had ridden from Wellington Airport to their accommodation when they initially came down! We jammed the trailer on top of Chris then I drove us to hospital where I got out and said goodbye to the race, and to Chris who was flying back to Auckland straight after the crit...I didn't actually hear how the stage went until later that night, but Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (High Road) won for the second consecutive year on the Lambton Quay finishing straight. Also of note was that Ruth had crashed in the latter stages of the race, but got up and managed to reintegrate with the front bunch so not losing her hard fought 5th place overall! Gutsy ride...

Loose connection - my Giro Atmos with new HIGH ROAD sticker...

The rest of my day was spent with my boy, as he lay feverish still and in a dull haze from the painkillers. As the day turned to evening and then into night, it was looking more and more likely that he probably wouldn't be operated on until the morning, and Jacq and I decided I should grab the Prairie while I had the chance, so I caught a cab out to the Hutt and began the post-race sort-out, while hoping like hell my phone didn't ring telling me to get back to hospital in a hurry.

I had to give back loaned items, as well as retrieve items I had loaned out. I loaded up the van with all my tools etc, as well as a huge box of goodies from my man Benny from High Road. He was incredibly kind and gave me a bunch of nutrition products to donate to worthy juniors (I gave them to the PNP track kids), as well as tyres, bidons, stickers, the only High Road musette to make it to the Tour Down Under, and a very cool signed Susanne Ljungskog jersey to say thanks for some help I gave Meninkini. After I had gathered up my bootie, it was time for goodbyes, so I made my way around as many of these cool people as I could, then sought out Aurélie, Sharon and Ruth. I got a lovely bottle of wine, some chocolate and a beautiful card from them, as well as a signed Tabak jersey. We said farewell, but I'm hoping I get to meet and/or work with them again one day.

2 time World Champion Susanne Ljungskog's jersey (and shorts!)

I then drove back to town, unloaded the wagon at the Service Course, then raced into spending the next 5 nights in hospital at Harry's bedside. He was operated on on Monday morning, then the rest of the week was just monitoring, redressing his impressive wound, and dealing with an intensive course of ABs. I slept in a Lay-Z-Boy and kept him company as he started to perk up, and enjoyed being beaten at games of foos-ball with him once he could use an arm...

So, there it is. Sorry for the lack of photos in the final stages there, but not much could be done about that. The Tour was a great time, as it always is, that would have been a lot better if I wasn't worrying about my boy the whole time. Still, I got my job done, the Team was very successful, and we didn't have a single mechanical, so I'm really happy...especially as Harry is now well on the road to recovery.

To close off, I'd like to thank a few folks. I'd like to thank Chris Drake and Susy Pryde for the job, and the faith they continually show in me. I'd like to thank Paul Larkin and Benny Devcich for all their help and support. I'd like to thank Malindi, Aurélie, Sharon and Ruth for their work and their understanding when I wasn't quite in their zone. I'd like to thank my sons Kester and Bodhi for looking after each other at various rellies places for most of a week. I'd really like to thank Harry for being such a legend and understanding why his Dad wasn't with him through some very tough times. But most of all, I want to thank my wife Jacq for stepping up and looking after Harry as well as if he was her own son, and helping me to finish off the job knowing he was safe and cared for as well as if I was there myself...

Okay, thanks for bearing with me so long! Back to normal blogging now, although I'm terrified about writing up the reports for the upcoming Tour of Chongming Island - there could be a whole book in there! I'll give you a rundown on the Tour as soon as I can find out anything...

Pedal on, Oli

My card from the girls - reminiscent of the roads we raced on


ANT said...

hey oli,
looks like the shop is going great,hope things are good and the boy is well...


Oli said...

Hey, Tuckie!
Cheers, mate. All is calm now, so just trying to work a lot and ride a bit. I hope all is good for you - it looks like you had a great season last year and early this year, so all the best for the rest of it.
Great to hear from you...CU at the races, Oli