Stage Two: Invercargill to Bluff Hill 138km

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This week, the Oamaru Mail will be publishing local cycling enthusiast Adair Craik’s experiences through each stage of cycling’s recent Tour of Southland. Pick up tomorrow’s edition for ‘Stage Three.’

Bluff Hill is a feature of the Tour – It is so steep you can barely drive your car up there.

In fact, with the rain, we simply couldn’t get the van up there and skidded part way back down.

Exhausted cyclists swerve all over the road trying to keep from falling off, however, the winner made the climb look like a Sunday drive.

There was a big disappointment with 5km to go, unfortunately there was a pile up on the way out to Bluff, and Ben Jonstone’s dad, Lee, crashed.

Lee continued on to climb but had to withdraw that night from the Tour after an x-ray showed he had a broken wrist.

Also a media motorbike got caught up in the crash and ran over one of our team member’s bikes and smashed the derailleur.

We managed to grab a spare bike from another team but Dan Carruthers continued on, upset obviously, as he lost many valuable minutes.

Feeding:

Feeding opens after 50kms of the stage and closes again at the final 20km mark. This manoeuvre is really stressful for the driver and cyclist. When a team member puts up his hand holding a bottle, your team van is called up to the front of the convoy to exchange water bottles. Previous to the rider putting up his hand, the team would have communicated and given all their empty bottles to one rider.

Remember the rolling block is in place, and the cyclists are all over the road, usually sheltering from the wind as much as possible. The convey has to stay on the left, leaving the right hand side free.

A team member had put up his hand; Com One announces “Adair Craik Accounting – Feeding”.

As the driver, you indicate right and go as fast as possible down the right hand lane with little room between your van and the convoy, then indicate left and pull back in between Com One and in front of Com Two and wait for your team rider to come back to the passenger side.

Once they come back, the team van helper has to grab the empty bottles and refill the cyclist’s pockets with extra full bottles. Sometimes vans and cyclists have ‘sticky bottles’.

This is where the cyclists hangs onto the bottle for a very long time whilst being dragged along by the van – Com One will have you for toast if you do that.

When finished, you pull over to the left and the convoy all passes you until you are back in number order again.

This whole process happens within a minute, maybe two at the outside, as there are other teams wanting feeding as well.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED – Cyclists endure lung busting hill climbs.