April 14, 2023: Stage 6: Wanaka to the top of the Crown Range (highest tarmac road in Aotearoa)
– 38km; 800m of climbing
It was party time on the start line this morning. High spirits and lots of chatter, with the sun warming us and gorgeous mountains inspiring us…and only 38km left to ride on the Tour of New Zealand 2023.
Ha, just a quick sprint to the finish line of the sixth and final stage!
Well, yes, the first 20km up the valley to the Cardrona Pub were a gentle climb hardly worth the name. The canniest riders, though, were GP and PJ who had done all their training at home in flat-as Singapore. Then stopped for an early morning tea at the pub.
Rod lingered at the pub too. But only to fix his second flat tyre of the morning. Meanwhile the rest of Team Ākina were well up the road in their usual order – Russell, Geoff and Corrie in fast bunches with Nick, Katie and Donna further back.
From the pub to the finish line at the summit of the Crown Range was 16 km, which got progressively steeper. The last 3km were particularly hard on Tour-tired legs and lungs. Over the line, the team had plenty of time to recover before Rod eventually arrived. He was likely the last rider to finish, and happily so in the company of Kent Gardner.
Ah, they were faster once! Back in the 2013 Tour their respective teams competed for the team title for seven days all the way down the North Island. On the last stage, their teams (Kent was riding with his five brothers) led them out to near the finish line in the Masterton Domain. Kent and Rod sprinted to the line, with Rod crossing half a wheel ahead, securing the team prize for Ākina.
These days Kent’s is the key backer of Southland’s G-Force development hub for talented young riders. Its two teams finished in the top seven in the team standings of this Tour; and Rod’s a resolutely slow and long bike tourer.
Stage 6 Tour video
Down in Queenstown in late afternoon, riders and supporters took the gondola up to the Skyline Restaurant for the Tour’s prize giving and peloton dinner, with the surrounding mountain peaks bathed by the setting sun.
Team Ākina’s racing team had a fleeting moment of glory…they were declared 3rd place winners in the Mixed Teams category. The photo below of the four men constituting the team, receiving their prize (a pair of yellow socks for each of them, presented by Julian Dean in the checked shirt, our greatest yet Kiwi Tour de France rider) shows not a flicker of worry of which one of them was the phantom female team member.
Sure enough, within 24 hours the results were corrected…and Russell, Geoff, Corrie and Nick slipped back into the main bunch of riders. They and our touring team of Katie, Donna and Rod were very content with their rewarding efforts on the road and their delightful times together off the road on the Tour of New Zealand 2023.
Above all, though, thank you for following us on the Tour.
And thank you all hugely for your generous donations to Bikes in Schools. Your funds will help get more kids on bikes. And there’s still time to donate, or to give more!
For example, $20 buys a helmet or $300 buys a bike, both of which will be used by lots of kids in the recipient school.
To give, just click on this link: https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/helping-kids-learn-to-ride-bikes-2
Wishing you all the best,
Katie, Donna, Corrie, Russell, Geoff, Nick and Rod (riders), Andy (team driver) and Lynn (team soigneur).