Team Ākina Bike Tour – Day 1: Beauty of the Lake; Beast of a headwind

Business journalist and ex-director, Rod Oram, is heading up Team Ākina as part of the 2017 Tour of New Zealand Bike Race. For 8 days, riders cycle the length of either the North or South Island, covering around 100km per stage and meeting in Wellington for the finish. Check back every day to read about the day’s adventure, as Rod guest blogs on behalf of Team Ākina.

Day 1, Saturday, April 1st, 2017

It was damp and foggy dawn down at Five Rivers this morning for the start of the first stage of the 2017 Tour of New Zealand. But there was a great buzz of excitement among we riders as we got ready for our 80km race back to Jack’s Point outside Queenstown.

Here’s Team Ākina hanging out before the start.

Team Ākina waiting to begin the race

We left in waves, the fastest riders first, and we soon ran into a hint of ran. But within half an hour the fog lifted and the skies lightened. By the second hour it was outright warm and sunny, just in time for the second half of the course – the spectacular ride up the shore of Lake Wakatipu towards Queenstown, with glorious views of mountains and water.
The very fastest riders were the lucky ones. If they finished in just over two hours, they were spared the strong headwind that quickly rose to dog we slower riders. We could have slogged it out without a breather…but three of us couldn’t resist a brief stop at Devil’s Staircase for this photo looking up the lake.

Team Ākina posing in front of stunning New Zealand Lake Scenery

Technically we’re two teams in the race listings – Team Ākina consisting of our three fastest riders, Nick, Graeme and Myles, and Team Ākina Too, with Katie, Amanda, Roger and Rod.

Our trio shot off at the start with the fast riders and turned in time of 2 hours 25 minutes. When our slower quartet started, Amanda took off like a rocket with a bunch of quick riders and clocked 2 hours 45 minutes, and Katie, Roger and Rod rolled in just over the 3 hour mark. We all greatly enjoyed the day, pacing ourselves well for the six days of riding ahead of us.

Late this afternoon, all the Tour riders, crew and supporters took the Gondola up to the restaurant on the peak above Queenstown for the peloton party.

This daily event is an important ritual of the Tour…a time to relax after the ride, to catch up with old cycling friends and to make new ones, to hear about the charities our fund raising supports, to hear briefly over the phone how the day’s racing had gone in the North Island Tour, and to be briefed on tomorrow’s stage.

Today, also, the race marshal read the riot act because a member of the public reported some riders near Kingston had bunched up across the road, and even over the yellow line. If they are identified they will be, rightly, kicked out of the race.

And, of course, we also got to hear the day’s results. On that, the absolute star of the day was the second placed solo male rider, Guy Yarrell, who rode the 80km in 2 hours and 5 minutes, an average speed just shy of 40km an hour. Guy’s is 15 years old, from Christchurch, and grandson of Pete Yarrell, the founder of the Tour.

Guy and Simon, his Dad, are riding for Bikes in Schools…so we are very proud to claim him as on of our own. He is a delightful young man, who clearly has a great cycling career ahead of him. Here’s a photo of him at the top of the Gondola.

Young rider Simon poses in front of the Queenstown Gondola. He's riding for Bikes in School.

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Tomorrow brings our shortest stage, but a steep one – from Arrowtown to Wanaka over the Crown Range. This is the greatest cycle climbs in the country, followed by a long hurtle down the other side. The perfect mix of exertion and exhilaration!


Rod Oram Rod Oram
Rod Oram is a New Zealand journalist writing on corporate, economic and political issues. He is a columnist for The Sunday Star-Times, a regular broadcaster on radio and television and a frequent public speaker.

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