Wednesday 3 November
Today was a double stage day with a total distance of 190 kms. Southland turned on another beautiful day but the riders didn’t stop to enjoy the view. With sprint primes starting inside the first 2 kms, the pace was fast from the flag drop. Aray managed to sneak into a break for few minutes, enough time to score points in 3 sprints, before the break was reabsorbed.
Other breaks tried to get away and finally one stuck with Glen Chadwick and Clinton Avery who mopped up most of the primes available. The break was caught inside the last 5kms of the 88km stage, leaving it to the sprinters. Aray tried to get a good position but a motorbike impeded his sprint, leaving him in 7th place while Greg Henderson took the stage.
With the fast stage we got to Tuatapere ˝ an hour ahead of schedule, giving the riders over 2 hours to rest refuel and recover. Or at least that’s what we thought until Floyd was ambushed by the media just after he’d crossed the finish line. Seems an old story about Floyd’s alleged hacking into the computer of a French lab had resurfaced: an arrest warrant issued 18 months ago was due to expire but apparently the French judge decided to keep the case open, despite the fact that the prosecutor’s office had said there was insufficient evidence to make it worthwhile proceeding. On top of that, the arrest warrant has never been served on Floyd, which means that he will never stand trial. Hopefully the French judge will come to his senses next time the ridiculous warrant is due to expire. The “news” didn’t affect Floyd though. He slept for an hour before the start of the afternoon’s stage.
The stage from Tuatapere to Winton was phenomenally fast right from the start. A slight breeze had turned into a strong north easterly tail wind and after the first ˝ hour of racing the average speed was 53kph. That speed saw the end of the hopes of over 20 riders and even after an hour the average speed was over 48 kph.
The pace set by Share the Road eventually told on the peloton, which split into 3 groups up and over Longwood Hill. Although the groups came back together, it was only briefly and as the riders turned into the cross winds the group fractured again. By the 70 km mark the peloton was down to about 40 riders and 3 of our lads were consigned to the second group. However, Floyd, Aray and Will were still up front working to stay out of trouble and getting ready for the long sprint into Winton. Things didn’t pan out exactly how we had hoped but hats off to Mike Northey with a perfectly timed, very long sprint to take the stage win. Aray managed to come past a couple of soft pedalling riders to take 6th place.
We were packing up to head home when the NZ Sports Drug Agency called on Aray for drug testing. So we spent another ľ of an hour waiting for Aray to fill up the beaker and fill out the forms, before we were allowed to leave.
Then it was a fast drive home, a massage for the lads and lots of food and drink in the evening sun, while Marcel checked over the bikes to ensure that they would be ready for tomorrow’s stage to Queenstown.