Home Sweet Home! And NZ National Champs, October 22, 2005

I’ve been home for just over a month now and finally I’m starting to feel more settled. The long haul home wasn’t so bad and was made easier since my luggage wasn’t weighed at Toulouse (lucky as I had 73kg which was 9kg over my weight allowance), and with a complimentary pass into the newly refurbished Air NZ lounge I could shower and freshen up in LA. But I wasn’t ready for the rain and chilly single figure temperatures in Auckland where I spent the day to catch up with my brother, sister in law and two nieces. Then the flight into Wellington was the usual rough landing in the howling southerly and a mere 8 degrees…. a nice welcome home! Just to top it off Air NZ lost my luggage in between Auckland and Wellington….. the bikes went for an extra jaunt down to Dunedin.

First priority once unpacked was to get my left little pinky finger checked out. I wasn’t too concerned about it but our personal team physio Toni recommended in France that I get it x-rayed when I got home. My sports Doctor Ruth Highet was onto my case and though fully booked for 2 weeks, squeezed me in then pulled some strings to get me into a specialist hand surgeon. Within a week of being home I got the verdict that my finger was fractured and I had ruptured a ligament which also tore away a fragment of bone, I had 2 fingers in a custom made splint, and was told that it had to stay that way for 4 weeks! Lucky though, I didn’t have to have surgery as that would’ve been 8 weeks in a splint!!! So, a big thanks to the NZ Academy of Sport Central for sorting everything out, and to Dr Ruthie and Dr Mark Rider for all their attention to little pinky.

Training was disrupted with the travel and the injury. I spent 2 weeks off the bike while travelling home, and then I did a little running when I first got my hand in the splint. Next I moved to the trainer as I wasn’t allowed to grip with my left hand. Three and a half weeks later I had my final check up with the Surgeon and wahoo I could take the splint off. Just in time too as it was only 3 days until National Champs!

I didn’t compete in the Time Trial but fronted up for the road race, despite knowing that I wasn’t in any great form. But it’s always good to be out there racing and it’s all good training. The National Champs were held in Ashurst, about 12km north east of Palmerston North (about three hours drive in bad traffic from my home town of Wellington). The circuit was 35km and though mainly rolling it had 2 hills where the difference was surely going to be made. We were up for 3 laps, making our race 105km.

The day was pretty overcast and it drizzled a little during warm up then a couple of times during the race but the roads weren’t slippery and it wasn’t too cold. However it was pretty windy and this made the second half of the lap a real grovel home. As expected the first time up the hill the bunch stayed together. Meshy and Kara Northcott slipped away while the peloton was thinking it’s way too early to go. Good on them coz they managed to stay away. Second time up the hill and Sarah Ulmer attacked hard! Then up the next kicker, she attacked again and what was remaining of the peloton splintered. 7 got over the hill and regrouped. Then 5 of us crested soon after, and started our chase. It just so happened that the 5 of us raced together in France this year and it reminded me of our time in Brittany when we had to team time trial to pull back the break. We could see the break for quite some time however we just didn’t give it enough when it counted and I think for all of us, we were not committed enough. It has been a long year but there are no excuses. Eventually we were caught from behind to form a bigger bunch and we lapped it out to the end. Meanwhile Sarah attacked and went solo to bridge up to Meshy and Kara. And then she out sprinted Meshy to take the win. Meshy was 2nd and Kara 3rd. The 6 behind splintered again into 2 groups of 3, then it was our group of 12. I finished 4th in our bunch sprint giving me 13th overall (but the official results put me as 17th. I can’t understand why that always happens to me!)

So, I can’t complain. I felt good for most of the race except for the hill when the smack went down. And that’s pretty understandable given my preparation - my last road race was in July and my last mountain bike race was in September. It wasn’t a major focus and as I said it was all good training. As for Sarah Ulmer – well, she is a total legend taking out both the TT title and the Road race title in very convincing style. It is so fantastic for us to be in the midst of such a talented cyclist. And it was pretty awesome to hear so many young kids and all her fans out there cheering her along. A big thanks to our Club President Hans and Nationals Team Manager Mike for all their hard work during the 4 days. Congratulations to all the PNP medallists. It was great to see so many riders competing this year. And PNP did pretty well to come 3rd in the Club shield.

Back to Wellington life. It was time to get some cash flow in rather than out. I was back into AMR Consulting doing an internal assignment which took a couple of weeks. And now I’m consulting through Stimpson & Co with an interesting assignment at Hutt City Council. My hours have been pretty flexible so far and I really do enjoy working from home.

My flatmate Emma is off in London exhibiting her art which I’m sure will be a huge success. Check out Emma’s website. Emma kindly held an exhibition to raise funds for my build up to the Commonwealth Games earlier this year in March. You can read an article in the Woman’s Day magazine here. Emma has been very successful as an artist in just a couple of years - she’s quite an inspiration.

So, that’s about all. Life is pretty good. The Commonwealth Games Mountain Bike team is announced in early December so just waiting for that. In the meantime I’ll race some PNP mountain bike races, maybe some fun rides like the Lake Taupo Challenge, and then the Oceania Road Champs in Wanganui.

I’ll try for monthly updates while I’m home so stay tuned.