Monday, November 2, 2009

Turbulent start down in Southland

The Tour started at Queens Park in Invercargill with a short 8k Team TT on a 4-corner course in the morning. Our Motel is only 5minutes away from most starts here in town so we got plenty of time in the mornings usually. The TT was a good warm-up and we did a 11:01 which put us in 15th place of the day out of 25 teams. An okay result considering we (Seth, Kevin, Greg, Mike + I) never really raced together, especially not a TTT. Actually, Mike and I did a Team TT together just over a month ago at Univest GP. But, who would have thought, the conditions are way better here down in Southland than back at Univest where we had rain and 50mph gusts.

After a quick lunch we headed back to the Park for Stage 2. Yes, double-days are quite common down here. The toughest climb of the day was thrown into the first day and we got to race up Bluff Hill, a 20% steep climb on the very end of the “South Island” and at the end of Highway 1. That was not the toughest part, though as we all figured out about 45K into the 80K stage. After a crosswind section (one of too many that day) a Subway rider lost it right in front of me once we were at full-speed with a nice tailwind, going around 50-55kph. He slid across the whole road and took out a bunch of guys including me. I haven’t wrecked like that for a long time. I went straight over the bars upon impact with his (now trashed) Avanti bike and found myself on the ground with probably 40 other guys. I checked myself and the bike and besides some cuts+bruises on the knee and a nice road rash on my cheek everything seemed fine. After some quick adjustments to a twisted saddle + bars we got rolling again until they stopped the entire race for 25minutes because of the large number of riders involved and the severity of the injuries of some guys. I actually fell on my head a bit and had to ask my teammates + Robert, our DS, for some basic stuff, like “Where are we”, “How did we all got here to NZ”, and such things. I never had crashed so hard on my helmet/head before and was “out of it” for a bit for sure. It was tough getting rolling again but I started to get back into the flow. It was weird for sure. I ended up talking to Landis for a while as he broke his bike in the wreck, too and somehow we even talked about the two hip replacements of my grandma. I barely remember that now, though :-) Well, the field ended up splitting into pieces towards the hill climb thanks to some – now in full force – winds and gusts coming off the Ocean. I dug deep in my 39x28 and made it to the top without having to get off my bike like I saw some folks do! My average cadence was around 48 for the last 600m I believe. That crash definitively took more out of my body than I had thought.

Mike finished the day in 20th and is our GC guy now. I think he can get close to Top10 over the next 5 days. Seth is out unfortunately, as he ended up breaking his nose in that nasty pile-up. Better than a collarbone or leg, though as some apparently did.

Tomorrow should be a bit more “relaxed” with a 165K stage and a bit more mellow elevation profile and a sprint finish.

Invercargill Velodrome, brand new, 250m indoor track. Nice!

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