3 races from down under  – by Graham Plews
Thought I’d be the first to submit a (brief) race report for 2019… from New Zealand! Not only that, I’ll report on the three races I’ve done down here over the last couple of weeks. So, like that trusty old cycle oil, 3 in 1, invented in 1894 to clean, lubricate and protect you are getting three for the price of one!:-
1. Gran Fondo Hobbiton Cycle Race (?), Cambridge:
Conveniently, the  event HQ was at our local High School so only a short ride to and from home was required. There were a number of distances. I chose to do the longest one at 103Km.  Like many Spotif type events, it was a race for those that wanted it to be and a gentle ride round the lands of The Hobbit for everyone else. Self seeded groups set off according to anticipated average speed. I put myself in the 28kph group because it was quite hilly and, in hindsight, I played it a little too cautiously. Two of us broke away on the final climb up French Pass and finished with an average speed of a little over 30kph. The event included an optional feed stop at the Hobbiton visitor centre but most riders opted to continue on. This was probably because they (we) wanted to post the best timewe could, or it could have been because they only had beer and muffins  on offer! Despite leading my group in to the finish I was only 8th in my age group, probably due in part to other riders setting off ahead in faster groups. Perhaps I was saving my legs a little for the next day when I was competing in my first triathlon of the year at the Blue Lake, Rotorua!
2. Blue Lake Sprint Triathlon, Rotorua: This was part of a weekend festival of sport involving various combinations of swimming, cycling and running. I thought I’d do the one that combines all three! We camped at another lake c 8Km away so we’re conveniently placed for the early start the next day. Like so many parts of New Zealand, the location and surrounding countryside was breathtaking. But, of course, I wasn’t there for sightseeing, that could wait until after the race! The 750m lake swim was followed by a two lap bike leg with c.350m of climbing in it. But, the best part came last. The 5.5Km trail run was one full lap of the lake and was truly amazing. The NZ triathlon team were there in force so there was serious competition for the youngsters but the organisers decided it wasn’t necessary to record age group times apart from V40+! I was 17th in this category but out of only 34.
3. Kinloch Sprint Triathlon, Lake Taupo: There were a number of race distances run over the weekend but it was the Sprint Distance race that grabbed all the attention. This is because it was the national championships and an kkITU qualification event. Not only that, the Kiwi elite squad and some elite Ozzie’s used the event to test their form. The last few years I’ve done the OD race but this year decided to have a go at the shorter race in the hope of having more depth to the competition. The race comprised of a one lap swim in the lake, a one lap hilly bike leg and  a two lap run around the ‘boatie’ village  of Kinloch. Ashleigh Gentle of Ozz was one of a crop of elite ladies that cycled past me having started several minutes after me! My race went like clockwork otherwise posting, as usual, the slowest swim but fastest bike and run in my age-group! The presentation was interesting. When it got to my age-group they called me up as national championship not realising I was a Brit! So, there were three relieved Kiwi’s when I confessed all! The depth of competition here is no where near that of the UK but the racing is exciting, well organised and always at a fabulous venue.