RACE REPORT: 2015 Tour de Vineyards
As ridden by AMR Renault Racing’s Josh Aldridge.
The Tour de Vinyards is New Zealand’s 3rd most prestigious tour after Southland and Manuwatu. It traditionally attracts a strong field looking for a good hit-out one week before the NZ nationals. This year the tour was dominated by a new look Avanti team who brought five riders including the two most dominant riders in the 2014 NRS, Joe Cooper and Pat Bevin. This year’s tour opened with a 10km individual time trial where I finished in 20th place clocking 13:02 on my road bike. The stage win went to Joe Cooper of Avanti in 11:38.
Stage 2 was a 128km road race in wet and windy conditions. After 10km, four dangerous riders escaped including Horgan and Barry from Budget Forklifts and Bevin from Avanti. This set off a few alarm bells and attempts to get across were coming left, right and centre. I followed a few wheels and found myself in a chase group of 5 which included Joe Cooper (yellow), and George Bennett (World Tour). About 20km into the race we made contact with the front four to form a lead break of 9. We all worked hard and 100km into the race our lead was over 10mins on the peloton who had given up the chase. In hindsight I had gone a bit too deep getting across and never really gave myself a chance to recover. After lapping at threshold for 2.5 hours I started missing the odd turn then with about 20km to go my legs completely blew and I only barely dragged myself to the finish just ahead of the peloton. I lost 12 minutes (within just 20km!) to Bevin who won the stage.
Stage 3 was another undulating 124km road race and a recovery day for me. After the previous day’s effort I needed an armchair ride in the peloton. Luckily Patrick Bevin had the same idea and an easy ride was exactly what I got. A non-threatening break of four got away (all 12+ minutes down on GC) and Avanti was happy to ride tempo on the front of peloton. Two of my former Albion teammates Hamish Schreurs and Adam Bull were in the break and came 1st and 3rd on the stage. Despite a puncture midway through the stage I finished safely in the peloton about 2 minutes back.
Stage 4 was the queen stage of the tour, 115km finishing with a 14km climb to the summit of Takaka Hill (900m). Once again four riders slipped up the road and Avanti were happy to control the gap at around 3-4 minutes. I wanted a chance at a good stage result and started to worry that Avanti were not interested in bringing back break. Luckily a couple of smaller teams with stage ambitions chipped in, limiting the break’s advantage to less than a minute at the base of the final climb. When the road went up, the peloton was quickly reduced to about a dozen riders. About half way up George Bennet pushed the pace which split the lead bunch into two. Only 3 Avanti riders could match Bennet and I ended up in the 2nd bunch sprinting for 5th place. I crossed the line 7th, 1:52 behind Cooper and Bevin.
The 5th and final stage was a 55km race around a 3km circuit in Richmond. Definitely the most painful 80 minutes of the week. There were a lot of riders like me who had little to show from 4 days of racing and were keen to give it a nudge. Several dangerous breaks of 2-3 went up the road and for the first time Avanti seemed to be under a bit of pressure controlling the race with the yellow jersey doing a lot of chasing himself. Hogan made a brave move on the penultimate lap, dropping his breakaway companions and going solo, getting caught within sight of the finish. The stage ended in a (very reduced) bunch sprint and another 1-2 for Cooper and Bevin for the 3rd time this tour! I held on to 9th place overall on GC for the tour.
Next outing for me is the NZ Nationals road race next Sunday; same day as the Aussie Nationals.