The Tour de Vineyards has just finished and I it has been a very interesting 5 days. It’s always a pleasure to race in my home town of Nelson and this year has been great. The tour was very well organised and the racing was tough from start to finish.
The tour began with a 9.3km time trial around the Mt. Heslington Circuit on New Year’s Eve. This stage was won convincingly by Jason Christie from the newly revamped Breads of Europe – All About Plumbing Cycling Team. I struggled through this stage, feeling flat from a hard week’s training beforehand. While it would have been nice to start the tour with a better performance I was just keen for some hard racing to help me tune up for the Elite Nationals next weekend and the New Zealand Cycle Classic at the end of January.
January 1st 2014 started with a monster of a storm rolling through Nelson and I was woken up by the thunder very early in the morning! Thankfully the worst of the rain blew through before the start of stage 2 and we had fairly good conditions for most of the race. Stage 2 was at times confusing and frustrating as small groups slipped off the front during the first few laps and I always managed to miss them! During the 4th of 8 laps an organised chase was looking more and more unlikely. I attacked up the final climb at the end of the 4th lap and before long we had a group of four (including yellow jersey Jason Christie) committed to trying to cross the 1:30 gap to the front of the race. Unfortunately we didn’t quite have the legs to close the gap and that’s how we finished four laps later; about 1:30 down on the stage winner Regan Gough.
Now a long way down on GC and with no points in the KOM or Sprint classifications I needed to race aggressively on stage 3 (the Neudorf Circuit) to try and salvage something. I felt great and I worked hard in the opening kilometres of the stage to establish a break and by the top of the first climb 10km into the stage we had a group of 8 with a slim advantage over the peloton. Our group worked well together and we started to gain some time but before long a stomping Jack Bauer managed to cross the gap alone. We kept our heads down and kept riding hard and held a 1-2 minute lead over the first of 2 60km laps.
The 2nd lap didn’t go quite as smoothly: the peloton closed our lead down to just 30sec and L&M rider Scott Thomas jumped across to us. Shortly after the 2nd ascent of Neudorf Hill Hayden McCormick also bridged the gap. He was very close to the lead on GC and if our group were to stay away to the finish he would most likely be taking home the yellow jersey. I was happy to work hard with him as all I wanted was to win the stage. Fortunately we managed to hold off the chasing group and fight for the stage win. It was a hard uphill sprint and I finished 2nd behind a flying Tom Hubbard (Breads of Europe) with Scott Thomas in 3rd.
The morning of the 3rd of Jan was drizzly again but thankfully the weather cleared just as Stage 4 began in Wakefield. I made the breakaway again and we were lucky to have another strong and fairly cohesive group like the day before. The stage finished at the summit of the Takaka Hill Climb and our goal was to reach the bottom of the hill with as much time as possible over the peloton. We managed to reach the climb with around 5 minutes lead which left us with a good shot of staying away for the finish!
As soon as we hit the climb, Ryan Wills who had been riding strongly all week, attacked and opened up a gap. I found myself in a group of 5 which slowly but surely dwindled down to 2 by a third of the way up the climb. We found a good rhythm and rode hard all the way but it wasn’t enough to bring back a flying Wills. Wills beat us in by about 45 seconds and I finished the day 3rd. I was really pleased with my climb, I’d say it’s the best I’ve ever ridden up there! As an added bonus the time we gained was enough to boost me up to 2nd on GC, just over a minute behind new leader Ryan Wills.
Going into stage 5 my focus was solely on taking that minute back and winning the tour. I felt like I was in with a real chance and the only way to make it happen was to race aggressively from the gun. Stage 5 was the undulating Hill St Circuit in Richmond. For each of the 17km laps I did everything I could to shake Wills and take the tour win. I wasn’t the only one within striking distance who was having a go; Hayden McCormick and a few other also rode very aggressively. But Wills was on a mission and had an answer to every attack… he kept the lead and I had to settle for 2nd. Jack Bauer took the victory on the stage with a very impressive solo effort in the last lap!
The Tour de Vineyards was a successful week and I’m really happy with 2nd place. The win is always the goal but that is my best finish in my home tour and I’m very pleased. Congratulations to Ryan for the win, very impressive! And a big thank you to Tasman Wheelers for putting on a well-organised and enjoyable race!
Now after a very solid week it’s time to back off, recover and get ready for nationals…
Today we started the 2013 Tour of Britain and I am absolutely stoked to be here racing. This has been the goal right from the beginning of the season and I am thrilled to have been selected and to finally be here doing it. If you don’t have a proper mountain bike, you can opt for the best mountain bike under 1000$ which would help you to be a part of this race.
Unfortunately my final week of preparation didn’t really follow the script. I picked up a stomach bug mid-week and it really knocked me around. I recovered quickly thankfully but it’s taking a little while for my energy levels (and stomach) to feel normal. I can only hope that I get better and better as the tour progresses!
Stage 1 began in the peaceful Scottish town of Peebles and wound it’s way around 210km of rolling country to finish up at Drumlanrig Castle. The weather was grim from the word go and a steady headwind around most of the course ensured that we were out there for as long as possible!
This was one of the stages that I had hoped to target as there was a good chance of a bunch kick but unfortunately my body wasn’t playing the game today. I lost contact on a small climb with about ten km to go and any hope of rejoining the group was quickly dashed by a puncture.
Stoked for my Node4 teammate Jimmy Williamson who got up in the finish to slide into the top ten. Fellow kiwis Shane Archbold and Aaron Gate also did an awesome job today with Shane finishing 7th and Gatey taking the lead in the sprint jersey.
186km around the Lake District tomorrow with some challenging climbs and similar weather to today. I’ll be heading to bed tonight hoping to wake up feeling more normal!
I am very excited to begin the new year by announcing my new team for this season: Team Budget Forklifts! After the dream year that the team had in 2013 I feel very fortunate to now be a part of such a successful and well drilled outfit. The team dominated the NRS series in Australia and notched up some solid international results. The single kiwi on the 2013 team (my good mate Sam Horgan) performed incredibly, winning the Melbourne-Warnambool, Tour of the Great South Coast and more. There are now 5 NZ riders on the team: Wes Gough, Sam Horgan, Michael Vink, Myron Simpson and me.
My time with the team kicked off with a training camp on the Gold Coast in December. It was a good chance to meet all the riders, management and sponsors and start to soak up the culture and spirit of the team. There was even some time for a spot of training on our new Cervelo rocket ships: S5 road bikes and P5 time trial bikes. These bikes are mind-blowingly fast: cutting-edge aerodynamics, stiffness and light weight. What more could you ask for in a bike?!
I’m home in Nelson at the moment visiting my family for the first time in way too long and racing the Tour de Vineyards while I’m here. It’s always good fun racing at home on the roads where I used to train and catching up with familiar faces from my cycling club Tasman Wheelers.
Next up is the Elite National Championships in Christchurch and preparations seem to be on track so far. Looking forward to donning the yellow and black for the time trial on the 10th of January and racing alongside the rest of the kiwi division of the Budget Forklifts Team for the road race on the 12th of January!
When I woke up yesterday morning I was hopeful that I would be better than day 1. Sadly I was wrong.
As we got underway I still didn’t feel flash but I put in a lot of effort in the first half hour to get a Node4 jersey into the day’s breakaway. It was a tough battle in a blustery headwind until finally one stuck with Mike Northey making the group. Soon after, the rain that had been promised began to fall and the temperature plummeted with it.
My day started to unravel when I was brought down in a big crash about 2 hours in. As bodies and bikes hit the road in front of me I spied a small gap and went for it. I thought I’d made it through unscathed when a flying bike dropped down in front of me and cleaned out my front wheel. I hit the ground hard…
I picked myself up and quickly assessed the damage to myself (nothing broken thankfully) and my bike (broken shifter and buckled wheel). I rolled along as best I could until the team car got up to me and I swapped onto a spare bike. After a quick chase it was business at usual, rolling along through the Lake District in the rain.
As we began to hit the bigger hills of the stage I really started to suffer. When the pace went up I had nothing left to give and I found myself slipping backwards through the group on the climbs. After spending some quality time in the convoy and giving it absolutely everything to stay in the race I finally lost contact.
I was absolutely gutted but still held onto a glimmer of hope that I could make it to the finish inside the time limit. This didn’t last long as I was becoming colder and colder and felt so weak I had almost completely stopped. I knew my tour was over; ruined by a very poorly timed stomach bug which had sapped my strength in the crucial final week before the race.
I’m out of the tour now and my UK season is finished. It would have been great to finish with a strong performance in the Tour of Britain, especially as this race has been my focus for the entire season; but, you can’t control everything and sometimes things don’t go to plan no matter how well prepared you are!
Good luck to my team Node 4 Giordana for the next 6 days of racing. I wish I was still racing with the boys but I’m sure they will do a great job and I’ll be watching! For me it’s time to take a bit of time off and look ahead to what’s next…
The 2012 Tour of Southland was a very successful week of bike racing and a great way to finish the season! There’s really no need to to go into too much detail about the race… every stage was important. We had to race full gas every day but it was all worth it!
After my 2nd place in stage 1 things got even better for our Node 4 – Subaru Team. Mike and Matt made the key break of stage 2, a huge 15 rider group who stayed clear of the rest of the field. Mike out-climbed all of his breakaway companions to take a huge victory on Bluff Hill. He took the yellow jersey and we moved into the lead in the teams classification.
Stages 3 and 4 were hectic for us. Defending the yellow jersey took a bit of adjustment and we took a while to get into a rhythm. The wind wreaked havoc on the field in the short stage from Riverton to Tuatapere but we had numbers in the front group with Mike and kept him out of trouble. Stage 4 was much more controlled and once the break had gone we settled into a solid tempo with a bit of help from the Barry Stewart – GMC Coaching Team. We navigated Blackmount and all the crosswind sections with the whole team in the front group, keeping Mike protected all the way. Coming into the final few kilometres the focus turned to the finish and I had a crack at the sprint. It was an extremely messy finish but I got through unscathed for 3rd place. Awesome sprint by Clinton Avery to take the win!
The queen stage from Te Anau to Crown Range was always going to be a tough day for the team in yellow. It took an agonisingly long time for the break to form and every time a suitable group formed a few more people always tried to sneak across. It was important for us not to let a group up the road that was too strong as we’d just have to chase them all day! Once a not-too-dangerous group had finally formed we let the gap grow and settled in for a long day.
Matt and the two Jameses (Moss and Sampson) rode the front for 140km, most of that into a block headwind up towards the lake. They were riding so strong that they regularly had to ease up to keep the gap to the break from getting too small! As we approached Queenstown the Calder Stewart Team put a few of their boys on the front in an effort to finish off the break and set Hayden Roulston up for the finish up the Crown Range but a poorly timed puncture cost Roly a shot at the win. American Carter Jones of the Bissell Team took the win and enough time to move into the yellow jersey, bumping Mike into second.
It was a setback but we were happy to still be so close with all of the hills out of the way. We were confident that a bit of wind in the last couple of days would help our cause!!
To our delight we awoke to a gale on the morning of stage 6 from Invercargill to Gore. Within 5km the peloton was splitting in the gusty wind and the front group was less than 20 guys very early in the race. A well-timed attack from Roulston, Clinton Avery and Fraser Gough caused a split and Carter Jones was left to close the gap himself. I looked around for Mike who gave me the nod and I hit out across the gap to join the leaders. I burnt a few matches getting across but once there our advantage steadily increased.
From there we settled in to a long day out the front of the bike race. It was a good situation for us, as our group could put Jones’ Bissell team under plenty of pressure while Mike and my other teammates could conserve energy for later in the stage. I made sure to eat and drink plenty so that the day’s work wouldn’t go to waste in the final kilometres. Fraser dropped back in a hard crosswind section with around 25km to go and Clinton lost contact about 10km to go after breaking a spoke leaving just Roly and me to fight for the stage. It came down to a sprint and Roly got the jump on me early but I gave it everything and came back around. We crossed the line right beside each other, neither of us knowing who had taken it. After a nervous wait they announced that I’d won the stage by 2/100ths of a second. I was pretty bloody stoked!
Mike and the other boys also had a great day, attacking constantly in the last 30km until Mike managed to get a good gap over the yellow jersey and a lot of the other GC contenders. Mike snatched back around 30 seconds to finish the day only 4 seconds behind Jones. The tour was definitely not over!
The final day of the tour started with a 13km ITT in abysmal conditions. It was hailing consistently and the temperature was hovering at a balmy 4 degrees C. For me personally this was the worst stage of the tour. I wanted to do a good time but I was fairly tired from the previous day and it just didn’t go too well! I lost a whole minute to the winner Michael Vink to finish 23rd… ouch. Mike on the other hand put in another solid performance to take 5th on the stage and stay in contention for the tour win, conceding around 15 seconds to Jones.
We piled into a motel room for the hour and a half between the TT and the final stage and laid down a plan. It was our last chance to attack and get Mike the 19 seconds he needed to win the tour. The stage was aggressive from the gun and like the day before a front group of around 20 established itself in the first few kilometres. The wind and hail were still hanging around making every twist and turn a possible opportunity to attack. Calder Stewart used the conditions to their advantage, riding hard in the gutter to whittle down the numbers and wear down the other riders.
Near the midpoint of the stage in a sheltered section of road Matt slipped away in a group of 3 which quickly opened up a decent advantage. Before long we were back into the crosswind and Calder Stewart once again rode the front to put pressure on the rest of the group. Roulston and Vink picked their moment and attacked, quickly opening a gap over Jones and his last remaining teammate who were left to chase. We waited to see if they would bring the pair back but the gap grew and it was now or never for us to attack. I hit out hard with Mike on my wheel and took him as far across the gap as I could. I blew to bits but he was more than strong enough to finish off the job himself and he made it across.
The three then caught the breakaway and Matt worked hard to help them stamp out an advantage quickly. I slotted back into the yellow jersey group and watched Mike ride away up the road, a very satisfying sight! Provided nothing disastrous happened to Mike it was looking likely he would ride into yellow. Their advantage conitinued to grow while a few teams got together to chase and they finished with nearly 4 minutes over our group… Mike had won the Tour of Southland!
It was an extremely satisfying result and I’m proud of my mate Mike for taking the win. He is a brilliant rider and he deserves it! Our Node 4 – Subaru team also took out the Teams Classification to top off an amazing week. It was a pleasure to ride with these guys and I’m lucky to have been given a spot on the Southland team at such late notice!
Big thanks to Node 4 and Subaru for the support! And thank you to Marina, Steve, Ian and Bill for all the work during the week, we couldn’t done it without you guys! Last but not least, thanks to my personal sponsors Felt Bikes, Lazer Helmets, BBB and Maxxis. Your support is incredible and I really appreciate it!
We’ll get this out of the way up front: riding a motorcycle on the road is a generally dangerous and frequently challenging thing. Doing so while dto a conialing incall or grooving to some chill tunes is, well, not something we would exactly encourage. So, when we were given the opportunity to test ride Cardo’s latest helmet-friendly Bluetooth headset, the Scala Rider G4, we were a little unsure of just how useful the thing would be for a conscientious, safety-minded rider. We took a pair of the headsets for a spin just the same and were left firmly convinced that that this is a product worth giving up our in-helmet singing careers for. Click on through to read why, and for a demonstration of some supremely impressive noise cancellation.
For our testing, Scala provided a set of two G4 headsets; helpful because one of the primary advances here is boosted range for headset-to-headset communications. Lots of folks ride with other people, but simple discussions about lunch plans, fuel stops, or the appropriateness of a pedestrian’s attire can be difficult when you have 60mph of wind noise to contend with. The G4 filters out all that and allows up to four people to easily chat at a distance of up to a mile — in theory. We couldn’t even get to a half-mile before we lost connection but that was with some trees in the way and, honestly, that’s plenty far for most situations.
That said, person-to-person communication is just the beginning of what this headset can do. It offers Bluetooth pairing to a phone, a media player, and a navigation system simultaneously. (It even has a 3.5mm line-in and can tune in FM stations.) If you’re a smartphone user there’s a good chance you have all that covered by a single device, but if not the G4 will prioritize and make sure that your navigation updates don’t get blocked by any of the many and lengthy guitar solos on Supermassive Black Hole.
The G4 charges over microUSB and is rated for a full 10 hours of talk with a week of standby. Pairing is as easy as with any other headset, just hold the power button down until it starts blinking and then let your device detect it. A few seconds later you’re good to go. Mounting can be a bit more tricky, however. The G4 actually comes in two pieces: a clamp that attaches to your helmet and an easily removable portion with all the electronics inside. This is presumably so you can refill those batteries without taking your helmet to your charging stand, but we also like that you could leave your lid hanging on a footpeg in the parking lot but take the (costly) communicator itself with you.
There are two models of the G4, the version we have with a flexible boom mic and another that has one on a wire. The latter version would be preferred for a full-faced helmet like our Shoei, but the boom worked just fine when we bent it up into the helmet and then ran the speaker wires under the padding. The clamp fits between the padding and the shell of the helmet, but there is also an adhesive mount included if that setup won’t work for you. Overall the process wasn’t that bad, but we do wish the speakers weren’t hard-wired into the clamp — we could see possibly wanting to replace them with ear buds.
When we performed our first call with the G4 we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we certainly wouldn’t have predicted the person on the other end saying they couldn’t hear the motorcycle, or the wind, or the 18-wheeler engine braking three feet to our right. Riding a motorcycle is a very noisy activity and this headset does an admirable job of killing all that and delivering only your voice through. Sure, speech sounds a bit compressed and having that mic pressed right up to our lips made us a little more mumbly than usual, but it’s impressive nevertheless.
Hearing is surprisingly easy as well. The flat, Velcro-backed speakers are plenty loud and the volume ramps up as the background noise does, enough to hear even through earplugs. In most cases the headset does an admirable job of keeping the volume level appropriate as you speed up or slow down, but intercom conversations were a bit faint at low speeds. Changing the volume is easy enough with gloves on, as is answering calls (you can just say “hello”), but handling all the other features was more of a handful. There are A and B buttons for changing intercom channels and you can press and hold them for things like setting an FM station or connecting to a headset. We found ourselves wishing for a handlebar-mounted control unit that you could hit with your left hand without taking it off the grip.
That was especially true when directly connected to another headset. By default the headset disconnects after 30 seconds of silence and then reconnects you after you speak a word. There are two problems with this, the first one being that the other person never hears the first thing you say. If you yell “Look out, there’s a cow in the road!” they’ll still hear “There’s a cow in the road!” But, if you just shout “Cow!” they’re liable to hear nothing at all before getting a heck of a heifer surprise.
The other problem is that many motorcyclists have come to expect that nobody else can hear them when riding, and so commutes are turned into spoken word recitations or, in our case, impromptu demonstrations of helmet-filling baritone prowess. Voice-activated connections put a serious damper on this behavior, leaving us longing for a handlebar-mounted push-to-talk button.