LATEST: Cycling veteran and head of Massey University's School of Sport Steve Stannard is taking on the New Zealand Cycle Classic one last time. Follow his journey here.
Days 4 and 5
Saturday's finish at the wind farm lookout on the Saddle was great for not only the spectators, but also the riders.
It's a pretty gruesome task to have to race up a 350 m climb after already going flat out for 120 km, but to me that's a true test of form and ability.
Earlier we completed five laps of the Hiwinu/Colyton circuit, challenging enough in the wind.
For the first few laps, every break got chased down, but eventually a small group got away.
Again Genesys took control and rode tempo for the last two laps and into Ashhurst, very confident that the peleton would pick up the remnants of the breakaway before the finish.
You can't expect to climb a hill like the Saddle quickly if you've cooked yourself out front for an hour and predictably, the front two were quickly reeled in as the climbers took control.
A superb ride by Nathan Earle saw him tighten his grasp on yellow and noted climber, Micheal Torckler rode himself into top three contention.
The local support for the Massey/Bike Manawatu team as we rode up the climb was tremendous and really was the highlight of the tour for me.
Before the tour started my prediction was that Sunday's fast flat route would be difficult, and could be the decisive stage because it is almost always blowing a gale on those roads.
However, the Manawatu turned out one of those rare windless days, and it was beautiful and sunny to boot!
The pace was on from the start, with the average speed for the first hour in the high forties, as wave after wave of attack was chased down.
Eventually a small group, including a Drapac rider was allowed to go, and Genesys, assisted by a few other teams, got to the front to slowly claw them back.
Drapac, of course, were content to sit back and not participate in the work.
About 10km out of town a rider in front of me lost control on the edge of the road and came down, bringing another with him.
With nowhere to go, I cartwheeled over the top of the tangled mess and then another rider landed on me.
A quick check of my bike and I was up and chasing, and with the help of the convoy, I was soon back onto the bunch, albeit with a bit of blood.
In the finish, the lone Drapac rider left out front was consumed by the peleton as we neared the line, and in a show of superb team riding, the rest of the Drapac team lead out another of their men to win the stage.
Technical notes from my Garmin and Quark Powercranks:
* Racing distance 128.1 km (plus 7 km neutral)
* Time 3 hrs 23 min
* Ave speed 37.8 km/hr
* Ave cadence 92 rpm
* 1800 m of vertical climbing
* Average power output 271 watts
* Estimated energy expenditure during the race 15004 kJ
* Racing distance 113.2 km (plus 4.5 km neutral)
* Time 2 hrs 35 min
* Ave speed 43.8 km/hr
* Ave cadence 97 rpm
* 265 m of vertical climbing
* Average power output 265 watts
* Estimated energy expenditure during the race 11202 kJ
Day 2 - All about the wind
True to form, the wind played a decisive role in yesterday's stage.
Firstly, a short section of strong crosswind along Taonui Raod smashed up the bunch at about 20km.
While it was reforming, two small breaks went, including our teammate Shem Rodger.
I'm not sure if they merged, but the peloton sat up to see how it would pan out.
None of the front-runners were in the break, so the Huon Salmon Genesys Wealth Advisers team, to protect their yellow jersey, rode tempo to ensure the break didn't get too far ahead.
They were assisted by Trek-Vittoria and Capital Cycles Team.
For me the pace was reasonably comfortable, despite some seriously steep climbs between Highland Home and Apiti, and with a man up front, we had no reason to chase.
I got through three water bottles and four muesli bars in the first 60km to ensure I'd have fuel in the tank in the latter stages.
As it turned out, lucky I did! As we rode out of Apiti, the call from the car was the break was six minutes ahead.
That was enough for the alarm bells to start ringing and the pace picked up as we climbed to Kimbolton.
Soon after we hit the top, we spotted Shem just ahead; he'd had a mechanical and lost the front bunch.
With Roman fourth on general classification, and no one in the break, it was our turn to get on the front and work and bring the break back.
We averaged about 50kmh from Kimbolton to Cheltenham, then not much less from there to the left hand turn into Colyton Road.
We were greeted by a strong headwind all the way to Hiwinui and, despite the hard work, our team, Trek and Genesys were doing to reduce the time gap, the speed slowed to under 30kmh.
At the top of the Watersheds, the crosswind broke the bunch up again and my now tired legs had trouble responding.
Although I got back on by the Ashhurst-Bunnythorpe Road, the tailwind produced some speeds near 60 kmh uphill and I popped off the back with a few others.
In the end I rode in a couple of minutes down. The work paid off for us though, as the gap was reduced to a few minutes, so GC did not change and Roman stayed in fourth.
Technical notes from my Garmin and Quark powercranks: Racing distance 153.7 km (plus 7 km neutral), time 4hr 5min, average speed 37.6kmh, average cadence 93rpm, 2033m of vertical climbing, average power output 256 watts, estimated energy expenditure during the race 17106 kJ.
Day 1 - The Prologue
Deja vous all over again! That's what I was thinking this afternoon on the start line of the prologue.
I honestly didn't think I'd be riding the NZ Cycle Classic again.
But as 2012 wore on, people were asking me if we'd organise a Massey team again.
New Zealand's premier bike race was back in the Manawatu and I'd been training fairly regularly since mid-winter, doing fairly well in some local racing.
So I thought I may as well give it one last go. My (older) friends said that I should do it while I still can!
So I guess I'm lucky enough to be able to experience another five days of pain and suffering on the windy, hilly, but beautiful roads of the Manawatu.
This year's team is a collaboration between Bike Manawatu and Massey. Again, the idea was to fly the Massey flag in the race, but also provide the opportunity for a couple of young local riders to experience a big tour.
The local lads, Luuk van Wagtendonk and Matiu Kaihau have been accomplished junior riders, but are both now second year seniors. Matiu rode in the Massey team last year and that will stand him in good stead for this year's race.
Shem Rodger is a Massey student in his last year of a Bachelor of Business degree. He's been studying part time while riding the NZ Pure Black professional team.
Roman van Uden, our "ring-in" from Auckland, is another former Pure Black rider, and our best chance of a podium finish.
Both Shem and Roman have contracts this year to ride for the British-based Node 4-Giodana, and will be competing against the likes of Bradley Wiggins and his Team Sky in the Tour of Britain and other major European races.
Phil Fink is again our manager, and Kevin Laskey again our mechanic.
Mike Christie impressed with his driving skills last year "racing" up and down the convoy looking after our team, so we've recruited him again.
There'll no doubt be plenty of others helping us out during the week, so thanks in advance to them.
If you're out there somewhere on the road watching the race and see one of us from Team Massey/Bike Manawatu, give us a cheer.
- © Fairfax NZ News