Well, we made it to the Tour of Southland and we’ve got through stages 1 and 2 with no mishaps, so everyone in the team is happy.
Jane and I came down to Invercargill on Friday afternoon and were picked up from the airport with the van we were to be using all week. A relatively “well used” 9 seater van (with 218,000 kms on the clock), it had HUDSON GAVIN MARTIN printed all along the side and back, only marginally competing for space with Riverside Rentals’ own name.
The Auckland members of the team, Nick Lovegrove, Nico de Jong and Jeremy Meech arrived n time on Sunday morning, while Andrew Eagle and Jamie Whyte had arrived a couple of days before.
The first official task of the team was to ride around Queens Park with the local kids in a fun ride called “Ride with the Stars”. While Team Shake Rattle Roll may not comprise one of the highest profile stars, our attendance was welcomed and the kit was popular with a number of spectators.
The next task was the official presentation at the ILT velodrome. Again the team’s was warmly welcomed as a new participant and again the kit was commented on, which enabled us to give Alt Group a good plug for their innovative design.
All the anticipation turned to reality on Monday morning and 9.34 in particular. That was the start time for HGM in stage 1, the Team Time Trial. The lads rode out of their skin to do a credible time of 11.00 minutes flat. When compared with the winner Colour Plus, led by Heath Blackgrove, it might not have been a stellar performance but the lads had never ridden together before and acquitted themselves well. We finished 20th and that pace determined the team van’s slot in the convoy for stage 2.
Stage 2 was a rambling route around the outskirts of Invercargill with a final assault on the legendary Bluff Hill. Everyone was anxious but in our favour, the howling winds of the weekend had dropped away and the sun was shining. However, that didn’t stop the furious pace with which the race started once the flag dropped and the hooter was sounded by Mayor Tim. The first set of points in the Sprint Ace competition was at 2.5 kms after the start, with another 11 sprints scattered throughout the stage. A small group of 5, which included the monster from Canada Dominique Rollin cleared out and collected all of the points and money on offer. Their lead got up to 2 minutes 20 at one stage but, as was to be expected, they were all pulled back once the peloton (or what was left of it) hit the savage climb of Bluff Hill. By then the winds had forced the bunch into 2 echelons and so the field was scattered 2 kms before the climb. That made it easier for the riders who weren’t overall contenders for the GC (which included Shake Rattle Roll). In fact the lads all made it up the climb to the finish and acquitted themselves well, Grove being our highest placed finisher at 2 minutes 25 down on the unstoppable Jeremy Yates. Andrew was very close by and Nico, Jamie and JD cam in together just a minute behind.
The placings resulted in the team moving up one place in the overall (and the convoy for today’s stage)so we are now 19th. We are facing the longest stage of the tour today at 164 kms and the weather is about to revert to the typical Southland spring gales later in the day, so yesterday was merely a quiet prelude to what will be a hard and windy stage.