Road cycling is one of my enthusiams. Have you tried it? Encouraged by my eldest son to join him on the road during his teenage years, I have watched, with increasing excitement, the recreation and sport of cycling take off in this country. The countryside in my home region of Canterbury is ideal, as we have easy access to quiet flat country roads, but also the challenge of steep hills, fast descents and strong winds for those with a more competitive spirit. During weekdays and particularly at weekends the roads around the Cashmere Hills are alive with the thrum of spinning gears and buzz of bike chat! It seems that age, shape or size is irrelevant when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors on a bike.
The scale of this region’s involvement can be seen by the support given to the national road cycling championships by the local community over the last three years. Christchurch was given the privilege of hosting this event for five years starting in 2010. Both the men’s and women’s time trial and road race are held in early January, bringing out amazing crowds, the atmosphere reminiscent of some of the great cycling events in Europe and the U.S. Families gather on the hills or sit by the road side with their picnic hampers cheering on the competitors as they race by. The sport has its own peculiar language, derived from its historical origins in continental europe, which adds an extra mystique. Words like ‘peleton’ (the largest group of riders bunched together) and ‘domestique’ (a rider who assists the team leader during the race). Or ‘road rash’, a common phrase used to describe the nasty skin abrasions suffered when falling off your bike. Our annual road race draws the best male and female cyclists from all over New Zealand and these include a number of experienced pro riders from the Grand Tours. In New Zealand and Australia, the growth in the sport is massive and we are discovering some exciting home grown talent among our younger riders.
These photos were taken during the 2010 event and the two riders, seen here climbing the Cashmere hills together in an early ‘breakaway’, have gone on to win this years (2012) road race and national time trial. Hence the caption–
Early break, early promise!
Towards the end of the 186 kilometre race a courageous breakaway by a young rider is hampered by a puncture and the ‘big guns’ gather themselves for the desperate last three kilometres and lunge for the finish. This is not a sport for the fainthearted!
So come on guys and girls, young and old. Wherever you live, whether you are recreational or competitive, jump on your bike and get those wheels spinning!