by Hamish Dalglish
This year was yet another huge success for the Lifecycle team on the annual pilgrimage to do Le Race. Everyone who went had a story to tell and I think without exception certainly had a great time. Whether it was about winning, beating the nemesis, beating last years time, just finishing the course or having a great adventure, the one thing that all of us who took part felt part of the Lifecycle team.
The practice rides started on the Tuesday before with Liam doing the whole course and the riding back from Akaroa in one day and a group eager to stretch their legs after getting off the plane having a memorable ride to the top of the Port Hills as dusk fell. During the rest of the week most of the team checked out the uphills, the downhills, cafes along the route and in Rods case the downhills and the Orthopedics Department at Christchurch hospital.
The atmosphere at Oaks apartments at 7.00am on race day morning was electric. There was a real feeling of being part of the team as everyone assembled in the dark on the footpath. Some buzzed around warming up, some sorting out drink bottles with Paula, Thom managed to get a last minute flat and had plenty of help fixing it and ot just waiting to roll down to the start line.
Once the race was underway the individual stories began. It turned out to be a perfect day once again. The pace car slowing the front of the pack until virtually the bottom of the first climb seemed to be an advantage to Blair but tended to create congestion further back. Liam was in the front bunch swapping off with one of NZ's top riders Gordon McCauley at 40km plus heading towards the top of the first KOM. It didn't matter where you were in the race, by the top of the second KOM your legs were hurting and it was a great relief to see Paula's smiling face as she handed out drink bottles and encouragement.
Paula and our NZ Lifecycle supporter, Leanne Summerton's efforts were also very much appreciated once we got to the finish line as they handed out a picnic lunch. This is where the stories of the days adventure began to unfold. As we each rolled across the finish line looking for a familiar blue Lifecycle shirt. The first questions were all the same. "How did Simone go?" "Did Blair beat the nemesis?" How did you go?" It is unique being part of the lLifecycle family that somehow Blair's nemesis has become "our" nemesis and each member of the lifecycle team becomes a Domestique. Apart from Liam who actually did some work on the front of Blairs bunch the rest of us are "Moral Domestiques" giving moral support against a fellow cyclist who probably has no idea how famous he is.
There is a great feeling of adulation and relief as you cross the finish line but this was added to by the news that Simone had won the womens, Blair had won his age group and more importantly beaten the nemiesis. Laura had come second in the womens, only months after breaking her pelvis in this, her first major race and Julie Uebel had come fourth in the womens.
As we sat around waiting for the prize giving the Lifecycle team was quite a contrast to some of the other teams in the grounds. The whole Uebel family especially highlighted this. As the other elite teams sat around eating their super protein stuff, Lifecycle had a picnic complete with Julie and Owens kids were running around. A special thank you must go to Uebels who when the prize giving was over, rounded up those of us who did not have a ride back to the hotel and provided us with beer and a seat to Christchurch.
Also to major Dave Thomson for rounding everyone up in the leadup to the race and getting our accommodation organised.
Now matter how you do Le Race it is a tough course. Being fitter or having better technique just means you finish sooner. Finishing first, second or fourth is amazing but so is spending four or five hours climbing those hills is also a great achievement. There are some great stories at this end of the race. The photos of Simon and Mel doing the race together tell a great story. Owen Uebel finishing the course with hardly any training in the time he did is a measure of determination.
The great quote is from Rod Stewart who did the race in 4.10 "I think I could have cracked 4 hours if I hadn't broken my collar bone!". Rod managed to fall off coming down the first steep descent while practising the previous day. Rod has had a few sports injuries over the years decided that self-diagnosis and secrecy was the best course of action. Luckily Thom and Matt persuaded him to see a Doctor. The Doctor he saw had actually won Le Race twice and said Rod could ride as long as he could put up with the pain which is exactly what Rod did. Just thinking of those cattle grids and course chip roads show what stamina Rod has.
Being part of the lifecycle team meant loud verbal support from Jeremy Moore just when I needed it along the flat stage.
Everyone had a story to tell. My story is about being a "moral domestique" in a fantastic team. From the nervous pre dawn buzz at the hotel to the comforting recognition of a blue Lifecycle jumper while out on the course, to the elation of finishing and seeing familiar faces up on the podium at the prize giving, it is great to be part of the Lifecycle team.
Written by Hamish Dalglish