Mike Naylors race report from the Hub Tour in Hastings
Hub Tour 2011.
The Hub Tour in the Hawkes Bay is a well-run event which given its proximity to the other major races of the summer season, elites and Tour of Wellington tends to attract a formidable cast of riders all in fighting fit form. When Tristan and I watched Tim Gudsell of PBR disappear rapidly into the distance in-front of us during the Friday evening time trial all illusions that this would be an ‘easy weekend of sun, nice roads, vineyards and ice cream quickly dissipated.
The 6km prologue through up some pretty large time gaps, with Jeremy Vennell decked out in full TT kit putting an impressive 28sec into Andy who rode strongly for 7th and over a minute into my-self and Tristan who occupied the lower part of the results. Never the less the ride back to the motel with the sun setting over the surrounding hills and the roads devoid of traffic put me in good spirits “I’ll make it back tomorrow”…
A scorcher of a day was building as we got ready the next morning for stage one of the tour, 3 laps of a 33km circuit which offered plenty of climbing. The bunch set off at a fairly sedate tempo and it stayed together over the first 10km which was effectively a series of short climbs strung together by false flat sections. After the K.O.M I felt confident enough to try my hand in a few moves none of which were of any real success. A strong group of 8 slipped away just before the second lap and looked certain to ride away with the race as their lead stretched to over a minute. But once we started climbing, the tempo rose and we pulled them back by the top of the K.O.M, shelling a dozen riders in the process.
All three of us Wheelworks riders were still accounted for in the group and things were looking good as we entered the last lap. I was feeling strong and was readying myself for fireworks on the K.O.M climb but they never eventuated soon after though every man and his dog was trying their hand and Andy and I were getting amongst it with vigour.
While I was on the front of the bunch Gudsell stormed by on my left shortly followed by Vennell on my right. Foolishly I burnt my matches trying to grab Vennell’s wheel and when failed got sent straight to the back of the bunch which was strung out in chase mode. The wheels in front of my lost contact with the bunch on the next climb and I gave it everything to bridge back up to them just in time for the next climb, which proved to be a bridge to far and I the gap opened again.
I looked behind me to see if help was on its way but given my state of extreme exhaustion couldn’t actually manage to co-ordinate this small task with that of steering. When I looked forwards again I was staring at a barbed wire fence and was soon crashing into the gravel verge in a cloud of dust and humiliation.
Thankfully Tristan stopped to pick me up, dust me off and provide company for the final 10kms to the finish. The scratches and bruises weren’t severe my front wheel and jersey were the real victims, both now retired from service. Up front Andy scored a solid 9th place on the stage which was taken out by Bissell’s Patrick Bevan.
A few hours rest and we were back at it again with the afternoon criterium. The course looked easy enough with just four well-rounded corners. It started pretty easy to but after 10 minutes the pace started ramping up and never stopped. I was lazily sitting at the back and lacked both the power and will to move up and thus it was just a matter of time before a gap opened which I couldn’t close. I gave up the fight after the 20 min mark and joined the growing number of riders sheltering in the shade. Tristan followed soon after. Our melancholy was broken by the sight of Andy storming away from the bunch with one other inside five laps to go. Incredibly the two of them held off the bunch and Andy took a well fought 2nd to Ben Olsen.
Stu did an outstanding job cooking us risotto and steak for tea and we all spent the evening enjoying the cooler temperatures outside.
Another morning another can of creamed rice and another stage, this time the last one of the tour. At 77km it wasn’t the longest but the two laps of the circuit provided a steep 2km climb each time followed by a rolling section exposed to the side wind which was just tailor made for attacking before turning off on the final lap for a short 1.5 km climb up the very steep Burma rd to the finish line.
The first lap provided almost no action and it was gruppo campacto at the bottom of the climb the second time around and just 20km to the finish. The pace was hard but not terrible as a headwind on the ascent hampered Andy’s efforts to blow things apart. I crested just metres off the back over the top and was back with what was left of the group by the next climb. Unfortunately I was maxed out and when the pace rose again and I went to get out of the saddle there was nothing left and my legs came to an almost complete stall. By the start of the Burma Rd climb those of us who’d dropped had formed into a small group, which included Tristan and the two of us engaged in a full on battle for line honours which involved head butts, elbows, swinging arms and more than one soiree into the gutter. I was proud to claim victory in the battle with a sprint in the last 150m.
Andy had been unlucky to make the front group when they split along the rolling section and finished 6th on the stage for a final GC spot of 7th which was highly commendable given the quality of the field. Thanks to his better criterium finish Tristan did one better than me to finish in 19th. Jeremy Vennell won the stage but didn’t do enough to dislodge the yellow jersey from Shem Rodger’s shoulders as he took the overall win.
All that was left was to pack up the car buy an ice cream and head on home. A good weekend all round with great company, great weather and great racing. See you again next year Hawkes Bay!