Team Ākina Bike Tour – Day 6: Assuaging the Rain Gods
Day 6, Thursday, April 6th, 2017
With pink and yellow pairs of rubber kitchen gloves, plus supermarket shopping bags, we assuaged the rain gods this morning.
We had carefully considered this tribute to them during the previous three days of very wet riding. Showing our respect for the gods’ awesome power, we pulled the kitchen gloves over our riding gloves, and the bags over our socks before we donned shoes and waterproof booties.
It worked! Smiling down on us, the gods gave us a dry day, ‘tho they did taunt us with a few drops of rain in the middle of our ride. At the Tour’s “5km to the finish line” sign, we even briefly glimpsed our faint shadows on the tarmac.
Speaking of gods, Katie, a very accomplished Ironwoman triathlete, was happy to get this picture today with Cameron Brown, one of the most famous, and most enduring New Zealand triathletes who is riding the Tour with us.
Cheered by such favourable omens we set off in a massed bunch start from Springs Junction on the longest stage of the Tour – 118km to Murchison. Two long stretches were through thick, dark, beautiful beech forests, interspersed with a long very gently downhill run through farm country, alongside rivers and surrounded by high hills. After a 250m climb at the start, we had some lumpy riding in the latter half, making a total of 850m vertical metres for the day.
In that mid-section, Team Ākina showed its well-honed skills in the pace-line. Nick led most of the time, which is always a treat. He has a perfect feel for the pace of a group, leading with a very steady rhythm, lightly modulated uphill and down so those following maintain a very steady work rate. We hummed along for some 30km at 35 kph, towing another dozen or so riders behind us.
Katie and Rod greatly Nick appreciated playing this role in the North Island in the previous Tour in 2015, and likewise for many years in our Saturday morning coffee ride group in Auckland.
Meanwhile upfront, Myles was enjoying a hard but exhilarating ride with the bunch just behind the race leaders. He clocked an impressive 3 hours 10 minutes for the 118km, an average of 37 kph, while the rest to Team Ākina and Team Ākina Too came in up to an hour behind him.
It was a great day of riding through gorgeous country, ‘tho this being Day 6 of a pretty full on Tour there were various degrees of tiredness in the team on this long stage.
We’ve also had some four hours of driving today – to the start and then from the finish to Picton. We didn’t get to our motel until after dinner, so we’ve got only a couple of hours to sort ourselves out for our stage tomorrow – a scenic 75km loop from Blenheim back to Picton, with lots of short, sharp hills along the way. We seven in the two Ākina teams will ride together at an easy pace, savouring our last day on the road in this year’s Tour.
On Saturday in Wellington, we’ll still have one more great morning – criterium races or a tricky little course in front of Parliament, pitting riders from the North Island Tour against those of us from the South Island Tour.