Tour of NZ – Day 8: Wellington Prize-Giving

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Prize-Giving, Tour of NZ 2015


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The weather gave us one last unpleasant surprise on the 2015 Tour of New Zealand: the Saturday morning race-off in Wellington between the riders from the Tours in the North and South island was cancelled Friday night because the forecast was so horrendous.

Even wet roads, let alone high wind and rain, would have made for very treacherous criterium races on the 600m street course in front of Parliament.

The two KPMG teams were determined to at least have a social ride, though. They set off from Te Papa at 9am for a spin along Wellington’s waterfront.

Meanwhile the rest of us saved our energies for the afternoon prize-giving and socialising in the Wharewaka, the delightful Māori canoe shed, café and function centre near Te Papa.

Lots of prizes for individuals and teams, raffle prizes, more auctions to raise funds for rider-supported charities, plenty of story telling from the North and South island Tours, and many generous thank yous to organisers, helpers and others filled the programme for more than an hour and a half.

For Team Ākina the big surprise was winning the title of Mixed Masters Team, North Island. We were so focused on trying, but failing to catch, the all-male Aussie Oldies in the Masters category, we overlooked our secret weapon, Katie. We have a splendid swamp Kauri plaque to commemorate the victory, a companion to the trophy we won in the 2013 Tour as the winning team in the North Island. Then was only one other team. This time we were one of 23. Goes to show, you need to smartly pick your goals and team!

The big prize, a Jazz given by Honda, was won by Bruce Edgar. He immediately donated it to the Tear Fund, whose team he’d ridden for. It was a generous gesture typical of one of our most famous cricketers.

It will be some weeks before the Tour’s final fund-raising total is known. But Peter Yarrell, the Tour founder and lead organiser, says it will be more than $250,000, a big increase from the previous Tour in 2013.

Ākina Foundation are one of the designated Tour charities riders have raised money for, with the proceeds in our case going to Bikes in Schools, a venture we’ve helped Paul McArdle, its founder, develop.

A total of nine teams and five individuals on the Tour raised some $25,000 for Paul’s programme. Of that, we three riders on Team Ākina are very grateful for the nearly $4,500 people have donated. Thank you!

One highlight of the afternoon was the auction prompted by Ihaia Hiraka. This past week, Ihaia has driven his traffic safety truck the length of the North Island single-handedly putting our cones and signs at all the hot spots we racers traversed, then picking them up and moving on to the next. His care for our safety, and his huge enthusiasm for the Tour and riders, was always uplifting when we saw him along the way.

When we were all staying at the Chateau Tongariro last Wednesday night, Rob Hamill, the rower riding for the Tear Fund, showed a documentary he’d made about the murder of his brother Kerry by the Khmer Rouge. Ihaia, a father of three, was very moved by the film. He wanted to do something to help Rob and The Tear Fund’s fight against people trafficking. He suggested he sign a cone and put it in the auction.

Given the cause and North Island riders’ huge affection for Ihaia, the bidding was brisk. The cone fetching $700, and hopefully Downers, Ihaia’s employer, will match it.

This is just one story from countless in the life of the Tour this past week in the North and South Islands – stories of great generosity, perseverance, adventure, friendship and fun.

As HG Wells, the British writer of the late 19th, early 20th century said:  “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”

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Paul McArdle, founder of Bikes in Schools, Rod Oram (Team Ākina) and Alex Hannant, chief executive of Ākina

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Ihaia in his truck

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