Bar a few mishaps I can be happy with the first 3, flat, days of this unique tour, virgin that I am to these isles. That means I haven’t crashed or punctured! Ha, from my track record and ALL the reports I’ve had before coming here, my primary objective is to stay up and at the front of this bike race.
In summary, we’ve had 4 stages where I haven’t really placed (bar 4th in the team time trial), I’ve finished 12th and top ten today and missed the break on the first road stage (see ‘mishaps’). I’m on the team of the defending champion David Perillaud (from France who speaks pretty good English) and a bunch of New Caledonians who are either laughing or talking, which makes for a good atmosphere.
I’ve been looked after really well by Kenu and his extended family – team manager and employee of Le Nickel (Le Nickel are our team and race sponsors; we ride up their gravel road to one of their many nickel mines in the great Caledonian mountains later).
We started the tour with the TTT on Thursday. Prior to and ever since, my team have looked to me as the best prospect for the maillot jaune/team performer. I did spend ¾ of the TTT leading the team and had to slow down a few times for the two (of the four) that held on. All nice and complementary but I told them there was plenty of racing to come for the others to shine.
Couldn’t have been highlighted better by me turning up to the start of the next stage (which the programme said 3pm) 7minutes late. David had warned me to hang around but my legs felt like they needed a bit more of a warm up. Needless to say I found myself in dire straits and haplessly chasing a long-gone-peleton.
Cycling, or my life, often seem to find a redeeming light, this time in the form of a man on a motorbike for 35k. After passing multiple dropped riders I made it back to the main bunch. Man I was stoked to be there!
Yesterday was a 107k stage which was fast and not so hard. I found myself well positioned and strong in the crosswind section; made a few good attacks in the last 15k; but ended up rolling in (the veledrome) with the lead group. I hoped after a better sleep and further recovery after what was possibly my hardest moto-pace session the previous day that the next day would bear more fruit.
Well my only mishap today was not being smart enough to attack with/go with the strong man in the team with the yellow jersey. He eventually won in a final lap solo breakaway; I vainly attempted to bridge with one other. Unfortunately the one other was slower than me meaning we weren’t going to make it to the front guy and I had to accelerate every time I rolled around him. I did attack him but he ‘leeched’ on and I called it quits when the Gillete team (the only New Zealand team) led peleton had us in their grasp.
The good thing from the day is that I did not finish entirely fruitless – most aggressive award and good legs which I will save tomorrow for the following day individual time trial which I intend to win.
As far as ‘Island life’ goes – well I’m surprised as to the number of my expectations being out of whack! For starters it’s not extremely hot, it’s not even hot. Nowhere close to Townsville (Australia) hot, which lies at the same latitude. In fact the climate really reminds me of (good) Nelson summer days! Bliss – because that’s going to help when we hit the hills (we haven’t yet).
However, for better or for worse along with the lack of tropical climate comes lack of tropicalisms – I’ve spotted only one meniscal ant trail, few insects are heard, the beaches have been non-existent or out of view, and I haven’t been bitten yet! Stay tuned to this blog as I provide more on ‘Island life’ and my next 8 days of racing.
Thanks for reading!