Day 1 - 125km, well 140km if you include the 15km neutral that was actually a motorpace session at 50km/h, including two categorised climbs. 5km after the flag dropped and we're doing 65km/h just about to hit the bottom of the first Cat 1 climb of the tour and a team mate has a front wheel issue. Now my sleepless nights watching some bike race in France in July tells me that I should wait to help him get back on. I soon found out that at that speed just before a big climb I'm no help to anyone and so I spent the next 105km's chasing/holding onto team cars/drafting in the hope I'd make the time cut. With 10km left in the stage I caught sight of the grupetto cresting the second categorised climb, put everything I had left on the road and managed to catch them on the decent. Final result, 23 minutes down on GC.
Day 2 - 130km including 2 categorised climbs, one which we hit 90km/h coming down the previous day, the other which is 10km and doubles as the mountain top finish. With legs not exactly fresh I managed to drift climb my way over many rolling hills to still be with the peleton until it exploded in the feed zone with 40km left in the stage. Grupetto time again and I was the envy of everyone with my 11-28 cassette when we were doing 9km/h up that steep climb. No risk of missing the time cut meant I could soft pedal my way up the final climb in the hope that legs were good the next day. Final result, a further 20 minutes down on GC.
The day before, what have I got myself into?
Day 3 - 165km with enough rolling hills to plant a seed of fear about getting popped 20km in and getting eliminated from the race. The ride up the front, drift climb over the top, descend back to the front plan was working well. I even played domestique and went back to the car to stuff my jersey full of bidons and food for the team. Felt very pro. That was until 105km down, at an average of 43km/h, I managed to throw my chain off the outside of my big ring and wrap it around itself resulting in a stop, wheel out, detangle and motorpace through the convoy. Unfortunately the commissaire frowned on my getting any help from the convoy and with Drapac on the front doing 60km/h I wasn't getting back on. 60km doing 40km/h myself and I made the time cut by about 10 minutes. Those fresh legs I saved from day 2 weren't so fresh anymore. Now 90 minutes down on GC with lantern rouge in sight.
Top of the first climb of the tour, zipping up in preperation for 105km chasing off the back. Ouch!
Day 4 - 130km including three 30km circuits that included a few km of crosswind gutter action and a 1.5km climb that was sure to play host to some attacks on the Yellow Jersey. Legs hadn't exactly bounced back from my mad dash to make the time cut on the previous day. Lap one, not too much trouble. Lap two, couldn't hack the gutter action and watched the strung out peleton ride by only to latch onto the last rider as we turned out of the crosswind. Lap three, that crosswind gutter action had my hanging in the convey of team cars only to rail the inside of the corner that turned out of the crosswind and roll back onto the peleton. Being the last lap though the pace was on and I wasn't able to get to the front. No drift climbing this time around and as the road went skyward I went back ward. I just missed the end of the cars over the top and settled into another grupetto ride home. Another 10 minutes down and yet somehow I still had to lose 20 odd minutes to take the lantern rouge.
Yep, I really wasn't hurting myself too much on the Day2 hilltop finish.
Day 5 - 60minute+3laps on an 800m course through the Wellington CBD. Well that was until the skies opened, GC was neutralised and it was decided a 30 minute + 3 optional exhibition race was to be run. I had my kit on so figured I may as well line up. With man holes, road markings, traffic islands and cobbles littering the circuit the safest place was definitely out front. From the start I played mtber and got the holeshot into the first corner. Three riders had a similar idea and we spent a few laps off the front. Back in the peleton I wasn't feeling great after a pretty terrible pre race coffee and the wheels I was following didn't instill much confidence in my staying upright so I pulled the plug. As GC was neutralised and your finish result in the tour was locked in many others had the same idea. Only about ten riders completed the crit.
So I made lots of errors and nearly finished dead last but I got a solid week of training and didn't get sick. Many lessons learnt and hopefully a few more watts to play with in my legs. Time to go enjoy some mtb trails I think.