Day 3 was what Tour de France commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen would call the “queen stage” — a really long ride with lots of climbing and, it turns out, lots of headwind. Headwind or no headwind, the route from Kaikoura to Nelson is breathtaking; two other guys and I started out 20 minutes early in our own gruppetto and witnessed the sun rising over the spectacular coastal road. We took turns leading, but I wasn’t having a great start to the day, mainly thanks to my tender saddle area. Yesterday’s long ride took its toll on my sitbones, but I was able to shift around a little to improve things temporarily.
The first refueling point was at 37 miles, and that’s when one member of our gruppetto, Heath, decided to call it quits due to a lingering psoas problem. That left Lou and me, and we still hadn’t been caught be the bunch, which was kind of surprising because they have some real horsepower. My power wasn’t too good today, so I was struggling on every uphill, so Lou pretty quickly dropped me. That left me alone on a long stretch that it’s no exaggeration to say was pretty much all uphill and into the wind for the next 25 miles. I was probably averaging only 15 mph in this stretch, but my heart rate wasn’t too high, so I was definitely suffering from leg fatigue.
The group finally went by me near the 60-mile mark, and that’s pretty much when I decided to call it a day on this ride, with 90+ slow miles still to go that I would have to do solo. It turned out to be a good decision — I saw some great wine country from the van, and the climbs that came later on were just massive. I’m not sure I could have finished the ride before dark.
What I did do, though, once we got to Nelson, was get a 3k swim and a 50-minute run in, so I got in my three sports.
What’s really impressive to me are the guys (and gals) who complete the entire rides with the group day after day — they are really tough and fit.
Tomorrow is a somewhat lighter stage — “only” 130k from Nelson to Collingwood, but it includes a big climb (16k) up Takaka Hill. The big guns will be going after King of the Mountain points; I will be looking to complete the stage. 🙂