Round 2 of the Calder Stewart Series, sponsored by KiwiStyle Bike Tours, was in Timaru. A chilly, distinctly autumn morning gave way to a beautiful, fine day. The course was two laps of a 55-km circuit around the quiet, country roads and undulating terrain of Pleasant Point, northwest of Timaru.
|Picturesque roads of Pleasant Point.|
With teammates Karen Fulton busy winning lots of gold medals at NZ Track Nationals :-) and Jessica Johnstone side-lined with an injury :-(, Susan van der Pol, Rhonda Murphy, and I toed the line for the FreshChoice Richmond Pomeroys Women’s Team. Since we had two leader’s jerseys and a top team standing to defend, we knew we had a challenging race ahead.
The Black Magic and Benchmark Homes Teams put pressure on straightaway, with Julia Grant (Benchmark Homes) and Michaela Kerr (Black Magic) especially active, putting in repeated attacks throughout the first lap. A mechanical for Rhonda whittled our team down to just me and Susan after only 15 km of racing. Susan, putting in a massive day at the office, did an amazing job covering moves and making certain we were represented in any breaks.
|Susan (middle) in a break with Julia Grant (Benchmark Homes) and Michalea Kerr (Black Magic).|
Just past midrace, Black Magic riders put in a flurry of attacks, opening the door for Amanda Jamieson (Black Magic) to escape up the road. Amanda’s exceptional finishing climb in Round 1 and second place standing in the series highlighted her as a real threat. Registering her race number, I responded, digging deep to bridge the gap. Soon my gains diminished and the distance between us stabilized. We stayed that way for a while: Amanda looking to me like she was pedalling along quite casually, me unable to bring her closer. Eventually, I think she decided to put in some solid pedal strokes and disappeared up the road.
|Heading into the first climb.|
I looked behind to assess my situation and was somewhat bewildered to find the bunch was completely out of sight. With 45 km remaining in the race, I had a difficult decision: sit up and wait for the bunch or carry on riding hard, possibly sacrificing my finish should I be caught. (Other options, including lying down on the side of the road, do occur to me now but weren’t considered at the time...)
I opted for the latter and carried on, battling solo for nearly an hour. Alas, my current form wasn’t quite sufficient to maintain the effort required. Soon the bunch sucked me back in with just over 15 km remaining to the finish. No chance of catching Amanda, however. She remained out of sight, finishing over 3 minutes clear of the bunch, and showing some outstanding form and grit in the process.
|Solo finish from Amanda Jamieson (Black Magic).|
Once I was back in the bunch, Susan was immediately back on patrol, giving me time to recover for the sprint. With the last climb behind us, my legs felt good heading into the finish and second place was still a possibility. Until…
A wee crash on the final corner split the bunch and eliminated me from the sprint. I was fortunate to stay upright, barely swerving to miss the splayed arm and skidding bike of one of the two riders who went down.
Arrrrrrr. Putting forth a much bigger effort that I had left in my legs, I battled through the last 500m to finish 10th. The result knocked me well back in the points, but was good enough to keep me in the Master’s Jersey and 3rd overall. No room for disappointment – I had two chances for a better finish and I wasn’t able to collect on either of them. Susan put in a great finish after huge efforts throughout the race to finish 13th, and, despite missing out on team points, we held on to our second place team ranking.
Most importantly, everyone ended up all right, minus a bit of skin for two. Nelson powerhouse Michalea Kerr repeated her fifth place in Round 1 to keep her in the U19 jersey. Well done to Amanda, Michalea, and the Black Magic team for great riding.
|What?! How cool are these pink lambs cheering us up the climb!|
Big thanks to series sponsor Calder Stewart, race sponsor KiwiStyle Bike Tours, and team sponsors FreshChoice Richmond and Pomeroy's Coffee, race photographers Chris Sexton (Faction Photography) and Sandi Scott, and our awesome team manager Craig Murphy. Round 3 is in Nelson in August after the winter break. The next race for the FreshChoice Richmond Pomeroys Women will be the GrapeRide on 2 April in Blenheim.