Team Ākina Bike Tour – Day 3: Sharing misery, sharing triumph
Day 3, Monday, April 3rd, 2017
The Lindis is a lovely pass, winding up a classic, tussock-carpeted Otago valley to a lofty summit, followed by a long, fast road down into Omarama. But it was tough for us today, thanks to light rain and cold temperatures.
We started the day’s stage in Wanaka, alongside the lake under threatening skies.
Our first 33km down to Tarras was along an undulating road with a bit of a headwind, through expansive irrigated fields, testament to the dairy boom over the past decade.
From there we swung north for 30km to the start of the Lindis Valley. This photo Amanda took today gives a sense of the beauty, and the poorer weather to come. But the road was seldom as quiet, with tourist buses and stock trucks our biggest bane.
The climb started moderately, and was never as steep as the Crown Range. But over the 18km to the summit we gained 500m, making this a Category 2 climb. All up for the day, thanks to the undulations along the way, we climbed 1,400m – our biggest climbing stage on the tour, and at 115km our second longest day.
As we climbed, the light rain began. We were never drenched but we were certainly very damp. At the summit the temperature was down to 4c. The long climb, the rain and cold took its toll on every rider.
Many riders summited then plunged down the other side, far keener to get to the finish than pause for the misty view. Katie and Rod stopped, ‘tho, to pick up a bit food, rain jackets, and in Rod’s case, a long layer to pull over his cycling shorts.
From the top the road dropped 550m over the 35km into Omarama, with barely a hiccup of a hillock along the way. No doubt every rider was grateful for this speedy end to the stage, ‘tho the long, straight road under wet, grey skies was tedious at times for tired riders.
As is our pattern on the Tour, Team Ākina – our three fastest riders, Nick, Graeme and Myles – worked hard in quick groups to clock a very credible 3 hours 45 minutes.
The four members of Team Ākina Too separated as the race progressed, with rider working the tough day at their own pace. Amanda was the fastest of the four at 4 hours 15 minutes, a testament to her determined ride which she describes on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/amanda.banks.5891. Katie, Rod and Rodger came in in at intervals over the following 30 minutes.
Tonight the Tour is staying in Tekapo, and at the peloton party we were to sage and humble advice from Julian Dean, who has been riding with us these first three days.
The greatest Kiwi cyclist in decades, Julian retired from pro racing a couple of years ago. During his seven seasons in the Tour de France and the other classic races he won a huge reputation as one of the best-ever lead out riders. These are the ferociously fast sprinters, gifted with an uncanny tactical sense, who deliver their team’s star sprinter to the front of the pack for the incredibly intense, last 50m or so the finishing line.
As a teenager he never won any races. But he said his love of the sport and his sheer determination kept him going, eventually earning him a highly successful 15-year career as a pro. “You never give up, you give yourself time to adapt to every new environments you are thrown into”.
He said he never wanted the fame star sprinters attracted. The greatest satisfaction for him was playing his role on tremendously talented teams, so they could achieve together great cycling triumphs.
He’s been terrific company on the Tour, always interested in people whatever their skills and ambitions, always keen to share his knowledge. That a former pro can have a great ride with a very diverse bunch of amateurs is one of the things that makes our sport, he said.
“Cycling is a unique sport for bringing people together.”