Stage 2: Hari Hari to Franz Josef, 64km.
Heavy thunderstorms in the night, torrential rain when we arose this morning and a forecast of another wet and stormy day suggested another challenging ride today.
Nonetheless, we headed off on schedule from our overnight stop in Hokitika to drive some 20km down the coast to Ross for our stage start. But then we sat in our van for ages and waited while our race officials kept a close eye on the weather. We had some diversions, such as Alan the One Square Meal travelling salesman for the West Coast, parking near our van. Rod’s swear buys OSMs as his on-the road- fuel, so he bought three boxes.
Then eventually, the decision came…and Peter Yarrell (right), the tour director, and Julian Dean (left…more on him in a mo) briefed us in the Ross community hall. The stage start was moving it some 50km south down the main road to the tiny village of Hari Hari.
Finally, two hours late we were able to start on a route now shortened to 64km. Our racing and touring teams set off in their usual configurations…only to run into things, good and bad.
Corrie got a puncture, which he repaired; Nick burst his back tyre, which took him out of the day’s race; Geoff has taken out by another rider’s fall on a nasty, very wet corner on the big descent of the day – but fortunately he suffered only a small cut and minor bruises and pulled back up the standings over the rest of the course; and Rod had a slow day on his heavy, rented bike, coming in almost last on the day.
Meanwhile, the good news: Russell secured a high finish; Katie ‘won’ an ‘unofficial’ podium finish, being third in from our Ākina teams; and Donna had a brisk day, crossing the finish line with Corrie.
Still, we were happy to be out on the road, even tho the weather was rough and the riding tough.
We were well rewarded with two treats this evening: the first of our peloton parties, which are very convivial pre-dinner gathering in our hotel bar for stories from the day; prize draws for handy items of cycling gear; short talks about their work from two of the six charities the Tour is raising money for; an inspiring talk from Julian Dean, the most successful Tour de France rider New Zealand has yet produced.
Julian, who retired from the sport a decade ago, is our Tour ‘ambassador’ and he and Carole, his wife, are riding with us. One story he told this evening: due to ride in his first Tour de France in July 2004, he had a nasty crash that May and broke both elbows. Yet he recovered enough to ride in the Tour of Switzerland as a warmup to the Tour de France. And then in latter was the leadout man for Thor Hushovd in the fast and furious sprint to the finish line that won Thor a stage.
Our second treat: Dinner at the Blue Ice restaurant in town, where we had enjoyed an equally delicious dinner on our previous Tour in 2021. And tonight, as then, we availed ourselves of the restaurant’s stretch Hummer limo service to take us the short distance to dinner through still pouring rain…and home to our hotel after.
What with our peloton party and dinner, we’re well fortified – in spirit and body – for tomorrow’s stage, which will be our longest (110km) and hilliest (1,100m of climbing) of our Tour so far.