The tour was very hard. Tours are always hard, but this one was HARD. Rain, wind, crashes, splits, long stages, chasing... and more chasing.... It was action aplenty. I have not chewed that much stem in a while.
As the Gillard/Rudd leadership wrangle back home continued to make page 14 news in Palmerston North, many more leadership spills were taking place in the peleton. The yellow jersey got passed around the shoulders of the US national team as they played a game of 'You wear it. No, YOU wear it'. A glorious break with all the major teams' GC riders got up the road on stage 4 which gave us all a chance to sit up and be Euro as the gap blew out to 8 mins and Jorg repeated his traditional threat of neutralising the stage.
Team VIS was in a strong but stealthy position as a relative underdog against the likes of the Italian, USA, NZ, Chinese and Japanese national teams, GreenEdge and AIS. We were, however, comfortable in the knowledge that we had, in aggregate, the tallest team in the peleton and also were the only team with an emergency platypus (aka the Platypus of Truth) on board. This gave us a quiet confidence.
I don't think I've ever worked in such a committed and professional team.* Every day the girls pulled out something special. Jo 'The Flying Glutard' Hogan was our designated GC rider and was in awesome form the whole week, finishing 4th on GC. Loren 'Dial-A-Sprinter' Rowney showed no fear of the international peleton in winning stage 2 and claiming the green Sprint Classification jersey. Jess 'Giggles' Allen raced her first senior UCI tour like Jens Voigt, chasing down everything that moved and leaving enough in reserve to claim the U23 classification white jersey. The fact that she still has another 4 years in the U23 classification is scary! Chloe 'The Disruptor' McConville showed why she is one of the best team riders in the country by spending every day at the front, bringing back breaks, controlling moves and effectively setting up the VIS' move into the green and white jerseys. The only thing that we were missing was our team race brain Kendelle Hodges, who is recovering from glandular fever.
Our management, Donna 'DS' Rae-Szalinski and Ryan 'The Emotional One' Moody were the glue that kept us together all week. They kept us smiling, learning and committed to working hard. I think they worked harder than we did.
There were lots of colourful jerseys to be won during the tour but no prize was more coveted than the Ride Happy award, presented by team management (aka Donna and Ryan) each evening.
The award was given to the rider who had made Donna's heart rate hit 200bpm during that day's stage. The winner also got to wear a splendid blue headband at dinner. All the other teams pretended they weren't jealous about it but we could tell they were.
Jess kindly gave an interview to the Platypus of Truth after her epic win:
I found the tour pretty tough. Tour riding is my favourite type of racing, but my body was pretty wrecked. I've had a difficult few weeks of feeling cooked and in a perma-box that no amount of salty treats will fix. Not that I haven't tried...
I've got 2 more videos to put up from NZ but right now I'm going to bed. Stay tuned.
*Even though nothing can top the 2010 NTID Tour of NZ crew for fun... I have to say this is a tie for first place.