Ask RIDE…Trust House Cycle Classic – Stage 4
Upper Hutt Circuit
Day four in the Tour of Wellington – Trust House Cycle Classic was the final real stage of the race. No one is completely sure of how it will work out but the the basics are that criterium races cannot feature as part of a UCI tour and the next race is a crit. Stage five is being held around the city of Wellington and as such cannot be included in the final general classification. Race organisers are using the day’s race as an exhibition event to gain publicity in the area but we have not been told whether it will count towards UCI points accumulated from placings in the race. Apparently it will however, effect the prize money given for your particular placing. Confused? We are too. Worst case scenario the leader of the race yesterday (George Bennet) could loose all of his prize money if he failed to finish the criterium. That doesn’t make any sense to me but we will find out in the coming hours what is going to come of this mess. There is already talk about next year’s route which may include a final road race with finishing circuits in downtown Wellington – which is allowed and a common feature in European UCI tours.
The Upper Hutt race was not unlike the Australian national championships course albeit with a shorter 1.7km climb each lap. A couple of BikeBug.com team mates had scouted the course the day before and told us of the impending dangers of the main decent of the circuit. It had about ten corners, most of them off-camber and with a surface that looked like it hadn’t been maintained since the last time this course was used over ten years ago. The weather held up which was lucky and so racing was fast from the start. There were many of us who hoped for a slower start but with the final classification and sprint jersey still open attacks begun immediately. Three tough days of racing in our legs had most of us holding on until we warmed up. Riders were getting dropped after just three kilometres but all of us were in the front over the top of the first climb, only seven more climbs to go in the eight lap, 120km race.
A dwindling group was apparent at the top of the main climb each lap with about 30 riders together coming through the start-finish with one lap to go. Ben Hill (AUS) from the Suzuki Cycling Team attacked near the the top of the climb and took two riders with him: Lachlan Norris (AUS) Drapac Professional Cycling and Nathan Earle (AUS) Genesys Wealth Advisers. They held a slim advantage over the chasing group which had split to about 15 riders with the increase in pace. The group then swelled to 30 nearing the finish with the three riders still off the front. Sam Rutherford rode at the front to conserve the gap all the way till the final 300m when the bunch started its sprint. Nathan Earle was a danger to Chris Jory’s fourth place but Sam’s work at the front saved it by 10 seconds. No change in the overall with Chris maintaining his fourth place and Nathan Earle taking his third straight victory.
My take on the race was a little different because it did not quite go as I had planned.
Speeding over the next few kilometres I hit a pot hole and got a front wheel puncture. The neutral spare vehicle was there before the team car and the spare was fitted promptly. A big push and I was off in pursuit of the bunch. I was making slow progress to catch; crosswind and trying to hold 50km/h is never easy but Trent arrived and jumped in front so I could make my way back through the convoy. The problem with a technical circuit like Upper Hutt is that the cars get stretched out into a long line and the gaps between each car can be huge. Leap frogging from each car becomes difficult and tight corners slows to the pace of the convoy but not the bunch.
I needed some assistance to get back to the back of the group so I took a bottle from the car at the bottom of the climb on lap two. It had been over 10km by the time I was close enough to make the junction and with a ‘sticky’ bottle in hand I got back on just before the top of the climb. A few other team managers were not happy about the situation because they thought I had been dropped. Angry about there own riders going backwards they decided to make a complaint after the race ended. As it was I could not keep up with the leading group anyway and finished in the groupetto but this was later in the race.
Back at the hotel we received the results sheet, on the front is a list of the day’s fines and at the bottom had rider 23, Alex Malone and Trent Wilson: eliminated from the race for holding onto the team car. Firstly I never touched the car and second I was coming back from a wheel change and needed some help. This is might not be in the rule book but a little common sense is required. The second commissare had been told that I was cheating after being dropped which was not true. You shouldn’t be eliminated from a race because of a puncture. Trent met with the officials to discuss the mistake and viola, back in the race.
228 average watts
1,000 max watts
145 average heart rate
178 max heart ratE
1,360m elevation gain
2,550 calories burned
Checking the bike over after a not-so delicate truck ride back from stage three. It was all good.
Hanging out in hotel car parks becomes the norm at races like this. A boot full of bananas, fruit cake, drinks and gels ensures we have all of the energy we need for the day.
Alex Malone is the Technical Editor for RIDE Cycling Review.