From Daniel Carruthers in Bluff,New Zealand.Photo Credits to Envious Photography.
Bluff Hill and More wind and Cold rain!
Being at the southern most point of the South Island means you are exposed to winds that come howling up from the Arctic, providing a challenging ride for us riders. Racing at the Tour of Southland is no walk in the park and requires you to be at the top of your game to even remain in the peloton. After spending last few years living in China and racing around Asia, I’ve gotten a shock with the level of aggression that occurs within the peloton at Southland. You never get a free ride and its a constant battle for position in the pack. There is a lot of bodily contact and knuckle to knuckle throughout each stage, always have to be on the alert and assert your position. Racing in Asia does not prepare you for the battle that goes on at Southland.
The Bluff Hill stage is 137km that takes you on a rolling loop from Invercargill and back to Invercargill before shooting out 30km along the exposed coastline to the formidable Bluff Hill that reduces riders to walking it; the stage culminates with the steep 3km climb that pitches up at least 18% for sustained periods. Its a climb that requires a 28 cassette as a minimum. I came to the Tour with a couple of objectives, one was to get on the sprint classification board and I opened my account by taking the first sprint of the day once the racing began in Invercargill. I tried to keep going and was joined by a couple more riders but the peloton was not letting us go. I sat up and was re-absorbed into the pack. There was a counter-attack and that was the breakaway for the day. It eventually swelled up to 10 riders and all but three riders were caught during the ascent up Bluff Hill. I felt much better riding in the peloton today - legs felt good and I had good position. Was able to handle the difficult patches without too much difficulty and managed to stay ahead of a late race pile up. I was still in the main peloton when we hit the base of Bluff Hill and it was at this point I rode at my own pace to finish three minutes down on the winner. I finished 51st and legs are feeling good for the Riverton to Te Anau 150km Stage three. This stage promises to be very picturesque with lush green pastures dotted with sheep and rustic old buildings fringed by imposing snow capped mountains.
Survived yet another day at what is possibly one of the toughest road stage races in the world. Stay tuned for Stage 3 action.
*The pink feathers worn to start of stage 2 was because I finished last in my team for stage 1!