Team Ākina Bike Tour – Day 2: Climbing the Mountain

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 2, Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

What a mountain! What a ride! Our race this morning over the Crown Range, the highest paved, through road in New Zealand, exceeded all our expectations. The weather was glorious, the views spectacular and the riding exhilarating.

It is rarely so, given how fickle and harsh mountain weather often is. The 2015 Tour tackled this stage on a very cold, wet day. Dozens of riders under-dressed for the weather had to be taken out of the race suffering from hypothermia.

Given the history, many of us were anxiously scanning forecasts this past week. Seven days ago the prediction was cold and we. But by mid-week the threat of rain receded, followed in the last few days by the clouds and then the cold.

So we were a happy bunch on the start line in Arrowtown early this morning.

Team Ākina waits for the start of the race.

At least weather-wise. That still left plenty of scope for anxieties about the route itself. The first 3km out of Arrowtown were a delightful doddle downhill. Then the real work started – a 250m climb over 3km, replete with seven hairpin bends.

Next came a bit of a breather – 6km across the The Terraces, gently rolling terrain with no net gain in altitude…

…which delivered us to the foot of the main climb – 660m over the next 12.5km. This is a Category 1 climb, in the rankings in professional bike races. The only tougher one is Hors Catégorie. But our climb was less extreme than it sounds. It was less than half the distance of big Cat 1 climbs on the likes of the Tour de France.

But heck, we aren’t pros. We all had to dig in, with the agony prolonged by some false summits near the top.

But we felt amazing, once we stopped at the summit and got our breath back…as the photo below of Team Ākina Too testifies.

We couldn't resist stopping at the top of the summit.

Then came the cycling payoff – almost 40km down into Wanaka. The 700m descent was steep at the start but it began to ease off after a few kilometres. With 30km or so to go we had to start working a bit harder to keep our speed up, particularly given some head wind. We four rotated through brief turns at the front of our little paceline, to keep up the tempo and to get a bit of shelter behind the lead rider.

In no time at all, it seemed, we flashed over the finish line and rolled on down the hill and into the A&P showground on the shore of Lake Wanaka.

Our fast team-mates in Team Ākina – Nick, Graeme and Myles – had an equally exhilarating ride, beating our time of 2 hours 40 minutes by almost half an hour.

So both Ākina teams turned in a good time today, ‘tho we on the Too team rounded out our definition of ‘a good time’ by adding a long photo stop at the summit.

Resting up in the showground, we basked in the sun swapping stories of our morning’s ride…

Resting in the sun and swapping stories of our morning’s ride…

 

 

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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