TON is a four-day stage race starting in Whangarei, about 150km north of Auckland. Many friends have recommended TON as a fun, well-organized event.
Stage-1: 92km from Whangarei to Dargaville. Most notable is a 200 meter climb just out of Whangarei. The remainder of the stage undulates, with the exception of a 75 meter climb at km-60.
Stage-2: 84km up the west coast from Dargaville to Opononi. The first 30km are relatively flat, but then kicks into gear with three climbs of up to 250 meters. We descend almost 400 meters onto the flats approaching the finish before hitting two cat-5 climbs in the final kilometers.
Stage 3: 88km from Opononi to Paihia. We have three 50-100 meter climbs in the first 20km followed by a long, gradual climb. The last 30km are downhill into Paihia.
Stage 4: 92km from Paihia to Whangarei. The first 55km of the final day features a dozen or so serious power-climbs. We then see a 250 meter climb, followed by a descent and two more short climbs on the 30km route back into the finish at Whangarei.
I focused my training during much of January and February on this race. I was feeling very strong, I had some good race results, and my Strava segment times improved significantly. However, I had a couple of low-volume weeks in late-February, followed by my crash last weekend.
I hope to get-in an easy 60-90 minute ride on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week (TON starts on Thursday).
If I am lucky, the forced 9-day taper will leave me well-rested before Stage 1. I'll probably feel strange on the first day, but if I can find my legs and hold onto a strong group, then I could perform well in Stages 2, 3, and 4.
Goals and Tactics
This is my first stage-race so I don't actually know what to expect. But this would be my guess:
- Stage 1: Its a mostly flat stage after the early climb, so I don't expect anyone to launch a race winning attack. I'll try to stay with a strong group on the first climb, and then ride somewhat conservatively for the remainder and just find my legs again.
- Stage 2: This stage is set to explode on the series of cat-3 climbs. We'll see big time gaps on this course. Hopefully, I'll be feeling good and I'll do my best to hold onto a strong group.
- Stage 3: The first 30km of this stage is good for climbers, assuming they can hold their advantage in the final 30km.
- Stage 4: Its the final stage, so everybody will give it everything they have.
Overall, I'll approach Stage 1 conservatively and hope the peloton stays intact, race Stages 2 and 3 by sticking with climbers, and then give everything in Stage 4. But who knows what will happen.
I'll be happy to finish in the top-50% of my group (Group 1).
Hopefully, the stitches will be out on Tuesday. But I'll still have to be very careful. We'll clean, tape, and bandage my forearm each morning.
My arm can't tolerate a lot of pressure, but I'm not a sprinter anyway. I'll just have to watch my posture and stay on the hoods as much as possible.
In the past, TON separated the pros from the age-groupers. This year, entrants self-select one of six groups based on where they think they rank.
I chose Group-1, which includes pros and the stronger age-groupers. We have 65 in Group-1. I'm not sure how many are pros, but I do know approximately 15 of the guys I'll be racing against (guys from the North Shore and others I've met in recent races).
Luckily, Camila will be driving the team car. We have accommodation booked in each town. Each day should be the same routine: up, weigh myself, espresso, carb-rich breakfast, pack the car, check-out, warm-up, drive/ride to race-start, she drives to the finish, I race, recovery drink, warm-down, drive/ride to motel, lunch, rest, dinner, sleep.