OPINION: True to form, the wind played a decisive role in yesterday's stage.
Firstly, a short section of strong crosswind along Taonui Rd smashed up the bunch at about 20km.
While it was re-forming, two small breaks went, including our team-mate Shem Rodger.
I'm not sure if they merged, but the peloton sat up to see how it would pan out.
None of the frontrunners 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, 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 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 Rd.
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 Rd, the tailwind produced some speeds near 60kmh 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, 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 153.7km (plus 7km neutral), time 4hr 5min, average speed 37.6kmh, average cadence 93rpm, 2033m of vertical climbing, average power output 256 watts, and the estimated energy expenditure during the race was 17106 kJ.
- Manawatu Standard
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