Team Ākina Bike Tour – Day 5: Finding Fun and Purpose

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 5, Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

We’ll let two pictures tell you all you need to know about the riding conditions today. The first is our “dry” start at Methven, and the second en route looks down into the Rakaia Gorge where the road drops steeply down to the river crossing, then up the other side.

We were lucky. Up in the North Island, the weather was so atrocious today’s stage was cancelled. This was a shame for the riders. The course from Te Kuiti to Taumaranui would have been a delightful one, followed by a car transition to the foot of Mount Ruapehu. From there was supposed to be an individual time trial climb up to the Chateau, the palatial overnight accommodation for the Tour.

When we competitors from the southern and northern Tour meets on Saturday in Wellington for the grand finale race-off between the islands in front of Parliament, we will have tall weather stories to tell each other.

We can talk of steaming cows. Shortly after today’s start, a farmer had fed out along the fence bordering the road. Cows were lined up head on to the fence, looking slightly curious as we whizzed by. Rod gave up counting at 50 good looking Holstein Friesians…and there were perhaps a couple of hundred, flank to flank, steaming away in the rain.

But even in these conditions, you can still have a lot of fun, as Katie and Rod found riding today with Mike Pollok, a great cycling mate from Auckland. The three of them hunkered down, and worked well together along the beautiful flat road skirting the foothills of the Southern Alps between the Raikaia and Waimakariri rivers.

We were in other bunches before and after. Although we were faster on our own, we were grateful for the groups’ shelter from the wind. All up, we turned in our best average speed for a stage – 28.5 kph for the 75 km – even with 500m of climbing along the way.

Team Ākina – Nick, Graeme and Myles – were up with the fast teams, as ever; Amanda, a bit tired after her very big day yesterday, soon dropped away from them and came in with a slower bunch; and Roger decided to pass on the day, saving himself for tomorrow, the longest stage of our Tour.

Tonight we are in very pleasant accommodation at the Hanmer Springs Hotel, with five of us in a spacious, well-equipped villa. We decided to cook ourselves a really good dinner as a reward for our exertions over these past three days.

Yes, we are self-absorbed in our cycling bubbles this week. But at our peloton parties we plug back into the very real world. We hear each evening from one of the charities befitting from riders’ fundraising – Unicorn, which is fighting neuroendocrine cancer, Child Cancer, Fallen Heroes (supporting NZ military personnel killed in service overseas), Life Flight, St John’s, the Heart Foundation, and Ākina on behalf of Bikes in Schools.

Tonight, ‘tho, was by far the most confronting talk. Tearfund, the Christian charity, is riding for Invaders, an extraordinarily brave Kiwi initiative to help fight the exploitation of children and women snatched from freedom, or sold by their families, and forced into the sex industry in Thailand. Ralph, the Kiwi lawyer leading the work, gave harrowing accounts of their lives and Invaders’ work.

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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