The last Saturday in March may mean different things to a lot of people but for the 15 Lifecyle riders lining up in the famous blue & white strip it can mean only one thing......a trip to Christchurch, NZ for Le Race!
This is one hard event this year drawing 1400 starters to do battle with two sections of giant hills separated by 35km of flat, with a thrilling 5km downhill run to the finish in the pretty little harbour town of Akaroa as the reward for 3hrs + of hard toil. A look at the profile frightened a few off but our crew had done the training we hoped would beat the locals into submission.
This year our team was spearheaded by Bradley Nightingale and Carla Ryan. Both we thought would be hot contenders for the $2000 each for the KOM and QOM which was up for grabs.
The balmy morning was a pleasant surprise as we gathered outside the hotel for last minute photos and encouragement from supporters.
We had made sure of a good spot at the front of the grid as the start was guaranteed to be fast and furious as the first 6km hillclimb is just 3km into the event.
We had good representation in the lead group as Brad and Carla took off on the hill followed closely by Liam and a couple of Kiwi Lifecycle riders Jonny and Mags. Simon and Blair fought valiantly to hold position but soon realised that there was a long way to go and a lot of riders had there ambitions and abilities mixed up! Back a little Schabbo and big Tim were powering away with Jeremy,Jason and Gordon Moore not too far back.
Brad and Carla took the points for the first KOM and then it was the downhill to the flat with a few cattle grids to negotiate which proved to be less trouble than anticipated. A bad fall saw Paul, a cuzzie from NZ, take a bad fall ending his hopes for the day. A few big bunches got together with the smarter ones resting before the big climbs to come. Brad had a bit more of a struggle with the Hilltop KOM but narrowly had enough in hand to secure the points and more importantly the money. Back a few places Carla showed why she is Australian time trial champion showing a clean pair of heels to the best female riders and also to a lot of topline male riders.
The most scenic part of the ride is also the hardest so most riders probably did not notice how nice the view was but the photos give a great idea of the terrain. The temperature was climbing as well and while it wasn't too bad for the Aussies the locals were cooking as the mercury approached 30deg. Finally the last downhill arrived and as usual the highlight for everyone as they savour the fast 5km drop into town...everyone that is apart from Blair who took a wrong turning 1km from the finish and disappeared into a caravan park and lost 5min getting out losing his coveted top 20 position. Oh well, never mind. There is always next year. So one by one our riders rolled. Everone had a smile a mile wide as they acheived the goal. Everyone finished strong and vowed to come back next year to improve their time or just to do it again. It was a day to remember as the riders relaxed in the sun or under the trees with stories that got better and better as the day went on.
For those who want a challenge check it out with any of the guys who went or check www.lerace.co.nz We will be back next year so get in early and we will get an even bigger group to take on the Kiwis. They are out for revenge!
(From left) Carla Ryan (Lifecycle): Coffee Culture Queen of the Mountain and Fastest Woman; Edwin Crossling (Lower Hutt) Fastest Man; Bradley Nightingale (Lifecycle) Coffee Culture King of the Mountain.