Thursday, 27 June 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Local cyclists conquer Tour of Northland

From Thursday 21 March to Sunday 24 March, a team of local cyclists competed in the gruelling Tour of Northland. This year was the 19th edition of the event, with the route following part of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway. More than 270 cyclists participated in the event.

Marc Osborne, Grant McDonald, Peter Abrahamson, Darrin Picard and Scott Vaughan entered as “Team Waterways” in Category 3A, with Shelley Osborne entering as an individual. Over the four days the group cycled a total of 370km.

“Each team could choose the category they wanted to compete in, based on guidelines from the event organisers,” says Grant.

Team Waterways achieved a third place overall in their category and Shelly finished in fourth place overall in her age group.

Day 1 (Thursday 21 March) saw the group cycle from Whangarei to Russell. The longest of the four stages, the group says it was also the toughest. “It was definitely the hilliest stretch of the tour,” says Grant. “There was a very large hill about three-quarters of the way through and it had been raining earlier, so the roads were quite slippery.”

The Team Waterways members found that competing as a team is quite different from individual cycle events like the K2. “The focus is on the team rather than you as an individual,” says Grant. “You have to be tactical as your team’s time is taken when your fourth rider crosses the line.”

That said, the team worked so well together that they managed to put Grant in a position where he could break away from the pack to secure a stage win. They finished in third place, having sacrificed several minutes after two members suffered from cramps.

After an overnight stay in Paihia, the group cycled on Day 2 (22 March) from Paihia to Opononi. This was a reasonably quick ride, although there were still a few hills to overcome. Team Waterways came away with a first place in their category in this stage.

Day 3 (Saturday 23 March) took the group from Opononi to Dargaville. There were two significant climbs during this stage. Everyone pushed themselves and the Team Waterways members crossed the finish line within minutes of each other to again take out first place in their category.

Day 4 (Sunday 24 March), saw the group cycle from Dargaville back to Whangarei. During this final stage the weather proved a little foggy, which added to the risks out on the road. “Bunch riding in a group is hard enough, let alone with reduced visibility as well,” says Marc.

During this stage, the team experienced an unusual delay.

“Unfortunately three wild pigs ran across the road right through the middle of the pack, causing another cyclist and I to end up in a ditch,” says Peter. “By the time I had picked myself up and assisted the lady who had also fallen, I obviously fell a bit behind. That was certainly a challenging part of the journey having to ride solo and try and catch up.”

The stage concluded with a 2km sprint to the finish line in Whangarei. Team Waterways finished this last stage in second place. Unfortunately their achievements on Days 2, 3 and 4 weren’t good enough to claw back the time they lost during the first stage.

The group thoroughly enjoyed the event and are keen to participate again next year - perhaps in a higher category. “We definitely punched well above our weight,” says Peter. “We would like to thank our sponsors and support crew and all the others who have assisted us along the way.” 

Pictured: The group of local cyclists who competed in the Tour of Northland from Thursday 21 March to Sunday 24 March. From the left - Grant McDonald, Shelley Osborne, Scott Vaughan, Peter Abrahamson, Marc Osborne and Darrin Picard.

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