Wednesday, April 14.
After a day off our bikes yesterday, we were raring to go this morning despite the chilly 5c temperature and fresh snow on the mountains. Donna and Kaye were particularly pumped as we boarded our team bus at Franz Josef at 7am for the hour and a half drive to our stage start at Ross.
Maybe, tho, they were still exuberant after our ride back to our motel the previous evening after an excellent dinner at the Blue Ice Restaurant. The establishment has two Hummers – a short one and a very stretched one – to pamper its guests. We 10 Team Akina members failed to fill the stretch Hummer for the long way round the small town, serenaded by Johnny Cash, back to our motel just round the corner from the restaurant.
Donna and Kaye’s excitement was well founded. Today’s ride was glorious – 63km up the now dry and sunny West Coast from Ross to Greymouth with a gentle tailwind behind us on the essentially flat road through gorgeous scenery.
Our touring team was given an early start some 25 minutes before our racing team, which failed to catch them before the finish. They greatly enjoyed cheering our speedsters over the line, although Corrie arrived much later. He had a spare tube to fix his first puncture, but not his second one 3km from the finish. So he took off his cleated bike shoes and ran the distance in his socked feet pushing his bike. Every team needs tough farmers like Corrie riding for it.
Out on the course, our touring team split early, with the faster members tucking in behind David of the Unicorn team once again, while two of our less speedy members, with a Unicorn rider drafting them, coming in about 10 minutes behind them in 1h 57m, at an average speed of 32kph for the 63km.
Along the way, we were flattered the Oxford Edge team car slowed down to have a chat with two of our touring team.
Once we’d all finished the stage, we headed to a small campervan park behind a petrol station near Greymouth’s town centre. We’d heard it offered 6-minute showers for $4. Given we had a limited supply of $2 coins, some riders offered to share their showers. Geoff and Rod’s were strictly sequential. We left our three married couples to make their own choices.
…and then we had another delicious drawbar picnic lunch in the campervan park before heading back to the centre of town for coffee. Then we boarded the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch. We’ve pretty much filled the entire train with Tour riders and many of our support crew. We’re having a very sociable time, which is somehow leaving time to write this blog post. Meanwhile, others are driving team vehicles on the five-hour trip over two Alpine passes to Christchurch. Andy, our driver is one of them…and he’ll be picking us up at Christchurch train station this evening.
We’ve three more days of racing left…two more in the South Island then the grand finale of criterium races in front of Parliament on Saturday. Thank you for cheering us on…and here’s a special shout out to Rod’s great niece Martha in Scotland, two great nephews, Felix and Douglas, and their Dad, nephew Dan, in England…for pedalling our team colours on the other side of the world!