I was a bit apprehensive about this one for several reasons. First and foremost last year I crashed heavily and ended up in an ambulance! But I was not sure if my fitness was up to a good time especially after a so so Taupo. However Mt Taranaki and the Tour de Ranges were better so I should be OK. The other concern was the weather. Christine and I were up at 5am and a quick glance out the window showed steady drizzle. That descent into the gully before French Pass would be very tricky in the rain . Well we headed off with the wipers going and the sun half an hour from rising . No stopping for Phil this time as he was going with Jason .By Takanini the drizzle eased off and we had no precipitation apart from a few drops near Cambridge .
Ended up in the carpark alongside Big Phil and Neil. Registration and toilet stop worked out fine and I bumped into Phil Gibbs (Far North Flash). One thing really noticeable was the role of missing NZCers. No Dr John, Gervase, Debs, Shane B or Keith. But still we were well represented with Graham Wallace, Chris B, Jo, Dave and Zane Moors, Carron Malcolm, David Venter and of course Phil and Jason. Denis and Anita present too.
After getting into the start chute alongside Big Phil we waited for the formalities (Mayor's speech and race briefing) and I noticed the temperature up already. Would my two bottles be enough? I looked around and saw some with 3 and even 4 bottles but I guess they would regret that much extra weight on French Pass. I also noticed a fellow rider had foregone his cycle shorts for board shorts. Did he leave his shorts behind? No doubt he had a sore bum after 100kms.
Once we got moving behind the pace car everything felt really good. Eventually we got to the gully and I took it really careful down there. And sure enough there was evidence of a big off with a couple of bottles still in the middle of the road. (Phil Y had to wend his way through that a bit earlier on.) Got up the first climb OK and mentally prepared myself for the next big one and then we were on French Pass. I ground up it OK but was nearly a full minute slower than last year. Down the other side I caught up with Neil and decided I would do my best to stay with him as long as possible. He climbs very well but I seemed catch back up OK on the descents. We soon found ourselves in a big bunch that was a bit undisciplined but it was moving along OK. Then up ahead the hunched over figure in GMC colours and a red helmet - Phil. I yelled "Jump in this lot, Phil!" And he did. He seemed to be at the front a lot but in the end the bunch sorted itself out and we had a good rotation going. Through Matamata and then those long undulating roads. Most of the time my legs felt good. No hint of cramping or bonking for a pleasant change. Eventually we hit Walton Road and turned left heading for Bell Rd which is a fair way up the road from that corner. I felt good on the little climbs and was happy to be in the same bunch as Neil and Phil. Once we turned into Bell Rd the work began again up the nasty little climb that seemed to sap the energy out of the legs. We lost a few there I am sure. I put in a big effort to catch Neils group and was doing OK until the last climb in Scotsmans Valley. Same as last year a big gap opened up but sadly no Avanti van to draft :-) On the positive side it was along way back down the road with no bikes in sight so I felt it was unlikely Scotty's bunch would be catching me. I worked with another rider who was showing signs of obvious tiredness and we caught another older rider who stayed with us for a short time drafting but in the end the both fell off the pace and I carried on to Tauwhare School by myself. As I turned left again Jess came past in a big group that included JP and Graham Wallace. At the front was a girl in full TT mode. Aero bars and teardrop helmet giving the bunch a good pull until we turned into the undulating, climby road that precedes the last long drag into Cambridge. We all took turns on the front and then settled into the last 10K for home. I have never seen so many NZC riders so close at the end of a race together. There was Jess,JP, Graham and me and as we turned into Zig Zag Rd with two kilometers left there was Phil again. Superb effort to close up a huge gap. Remembering his burst for the finish line at Clevedon I was determined to put up a better fight this time so I jumped on the wheels of two good riders but Phil shot past so again on Phil's wheel with only 500 meters and a roundabout I gave it everything I had. The finish was quite spectacular as our two front wheels hit the finishing mat simultaneously.
After a bunch of high fives we made our way to the cold flannels, free apples and Powerade. There was Brigitte who had finished just minutes behind us despite being knocked off by a younger rider (I can relate to that) and tumbling through a fence. She remounted after losing around five min and claimed third in Age Group!
So to wrap this up....a great day really. Very pleased with my time. Weather although hot was 99% dry and very little breeze. Nutrition and drink worked out well with a liter bottle of water with 6 scoops of Hammer Sustained Energy, plus one gel and one Hammer PowerBar thing. Second 750 cc bottle had two NUUN tabs and water. Plus I downed about 8 Endurolyte tablets.
Will be definitely back for the 10th anniversary REV next year.