A look back at a memorable weekend of racing in Napier that I certainly won’t forget.
I flew up to Napier three days ahead of the Elite Men’s ITT which took place on the morning of Friday 08 January. The Elite Men’s road race was scheduled two days later on Sunday morning.
Upon arriving, I settled into my accommodation at the Ballina Motel, went out for a couple of rides and generally tried to relax on Wednesday and Thursday.
Friday morning dawned and it was time to negotiate a 40km undulating course, which consisted of a large 23km circuit, followed by a shorter 17km loop. I rolled down to the start a little bit nervous/stressed and slowly got ready to head out for a gruelling 40km.
When I eventually rolled down the start ramp at 12:04 the wind gusts were high and they only increased in intensity throughout my ride. On a course like the one we rode, the wind can really impact the times a lot and being an early starter could have been beneficial. Who knows? Anyways, I finished up 7th in the ITT and I definitely wouldn’t say it was a great performance. I felt flat during the ride, but some days that happens. I headed back to the motel to rest.
I woke up relatively early on Saturday morning and rode to the start of the Elite Women’s race with my girlfriend Georgia who was racing in the Elite category for the first time. It was exciting racing and a solid ride by Georgia too, who placed 8th.
Sunday came quickly. The 180km road race consisted of two rural loops on the fringes of Napier city, before negotiating seven and a half laps of a 11km city circuit.
We officially rolled off the start line at 09:00 and settled into a fast pace in windy conditions. It wasn’t long before a lot of riders began dropping off; by the second lap, I looked around to see only 50 riders in the peloton with a breakaway group formed up the road.
As we headed back into the city I knew that there would be crosswinds beyond Napier’s airport. This was the case the day prior in the Women’s race and it impacted the field a lot. The peloton’s speed increased as we turned right onto the main road heading back into town and past the airport. The field quickly split to pieces with around 20 of us at the front of the peloton at one point before a couple of groups rejoined on the edge of Napier’s metropolitan area.
As we approached the first ascent of the main hill in town I noticed Jesse Sergent had snuck off the front of the peloton so I followed suit and rode across to him by the top of the climb. At this stage the breakaway group had around two minutes lead on us with the peloton a further 20-30 seconds back.
Jesse and I settled into a rhythm and worked for the next lap until the main climb beckoned again. Jesse seemed to be fading on the hill so, with us in “no mans land” about a minute and a half behind the lead group, I waited on the hill as opposed to going ahead alone. We continued to work but eventually I decided to bridge across to the group of eight riders that were up ahead.
I managed to catch the group as it was battling a head wind on the back of the circuit and quickly learned another three guys – George Bennett, Dion Smith and Hamish Schreurs – were up ahead. The group seemed to be going too slow to get across so I just continued on at my own pace in chase of the three out front. One lap later and in the head wind again I was across to the leading trio.
Five minutes later Robin Reid and James Oram appeared, making ours a solid group of six. We rode well together but on every lap I was able to distance them on the main climb without too much trouble and eventually on the second to last ascent I decided to go it alone.
I still had around 30km of road ahead, including one more ascent of the hill and then a flat and very windy circuit which lead to the finish on Napier’s Marine Parade. It was a risk going so early but I just put my head down and suffered.
Ultimately, I managed to hold off the group, even putting more time into the chasers over the closing few kilometres to take my first NZ Elite National Road Race title. It was fairly overwhelming to win, and it still is thinking about it now.
I believe that the National Champion’s jersey should be shown at the highest level in the sport, aka the Tour De France. Even though I’m not racing in the World Tour I still wasn’t going to pass up the chance to take such a special win. I feel the jersey deserves exposure and I want it to shine throughout my upcoming 2016 season with KDU. I’d like to incorporate some of my design into it to make it stand out that little bit extra than it has in the past. I’m looking forward to wearing the Silver Fern for the entire year and will definitely don it with pride.
A special thanks must go to Mum (Carmen Christie) for always being there no matter what, and to my girlfriend Georgia and her parents Tony and Michelle Catterick for their support and lending of equipment. Thanks too to Tim Stephens (Ballina Motel) for hooking a boy up with a luxury unit for a week.
Next up, the New Zealand Cycle Classic. After that, I head over to Australia for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Herald Sun Tour!
Thanks very much for reading, and for all the messages of congratulations!
See you out there on the road,