Cycling's gruelling Tour of Southland is over for another year. ONE News reporter Max Bania covered the tour for the first time and has compiled an A to Z of the week's events.
A is for agony, the most common and conspicuous emotion on the tour. Agony on the face of the riders as the battle up impossibly steep hills (see below), the agony of competitors who produce lung-busting sprints only to be beaten across the line by miliseconds, agony on the face of reporters who realise they've forgotten to change the batteries on their handicam.
B is for Bluff Hill, the brutally steep climb which quite literally formed the climax of Stage Two. So daunting is this hill that our intrepid TVNZ reporter could barely get the car up it, so quite how anyone could cycle to the top having already covered 135km in a day beggars belief.
C is for cameramen, the unsung heroes of the tour coverage who risked life, limb and constant beratings from riders and officials to provide the TV and print images that brought the tour to life. Yep, filming cycle races while sitting on the back of a motorbike travelling at 50km/h is as hard as it sounds.
D is for duels, of which there were a few. Hayden Roulston and Josh Atkins battling up Bluff Hill, Gordon McCauley and Chris Macic who seemed to contest every sprint, and Alex Meenhorst shutting out a hard-working Chris Macic to record Kia Motors' first ever stage win on the 100km ride from Tuatapere to Te Anau.
E is for Europe, the continent which contributed two riders to the tour, both in the Southland Times team. There was Slovenian Andi Bajc, who rode strongly to finish 7th in the general classification, and 20-year-old Czech Pavel Stuchlik whose non-stop humour and enthuasiam was one of the highlights of the tour - even if trying to pronounce his surname wasn't.
F is for fans, and just about every Southlander could count themselves as one. The roadside well-wishers added wonderful colour to the tour; not least the two schoolkids who popped up randomly all over the province, dressed either as Santa or Satan - we were never quite sure.
G is for Gordon McCauley, the veteran of 19 tours and 37,461 wisecracks, who took home the sprinters' green jersey and kept us all entertained in the process. G is also for gummi worms - post-race meal of choice for recovering riders.
H is for Auckland rider Mike Henton, who rode the final 30km of Monday's first stage with a broken collarbone after a heavy fall. "It was really bizzare. I jumped back up and the shoulder felt perfect, like there was nothing wrong with it", he said, before heading to hospital for x-rays. "They revealed I was about three or four millimetres away from having the bone come through the skin."
I is for the ILT Velodrome, the wonderful facility in Invercargill which was the starting point for three stages and scene of RadioSport host Tony Veitch's brief foray into track cycling - in jeans. You can take the boy out of Auckland...
J is for Josh Atkins, the 19-year-old pocket rocket who deservedly claimed his first tour title after blitzing the field on Thursday's Crown Range climb and never looking back. A true star of the future, ably supported by his PowerNet team, and a fine young man to boot.
K is for kidneys, specifically those of Hayden Roulston. They quickly became the second most talked about kidneys in New Zealand sport after an infection forced a premature exit for the four-time champion on Thursday.
L is for Lyn Daly, Kate Buchanan and Nick Jeffrey, the tour's media liaisons who did a wonderful job arranging interviews and keeping the media informed, even if it wasn't clear at the time that Kate's advice to avoid penguins native to Bluff Hill was given with tongue planted firmly in cheek
M is for The Moose, the legendary Te Anau bar from which a certain TVNZ reporter is now permanently banned for asking the barman to change the channel from a replay of the day's tour highlights to live Test cricket.
N is for Navman, and thank goodness for it after our intrepid TVNZ reporter was led badly astray during Stage Two by his TV3 contemporary Dave Goosselink, who only admitted he was lost once his fuel light was on. Dave eventually rejoined the media convoy some hours later, having found a gas station but forgotten whether his car took diesel or unleaded.
O is for Olphert Contracting Ltd rider Kyle Wood, the man who rode up the notorious winding Crown Range climb on the rim of his wheels because the team mechanic forgot to put a spare wheel in the team van. He finished 33min behind the stage winner - still a couple of hours closer than most mere mortals would have managed.
P is for PowerNet, the tour's major sponsor and the team that made the greatest impression over the week. The team of six Under-23 riders were fearless and composed in holding off the far more experienced riders of the Pure Black and Calder Stewart teams to deliver Atkins his historic tour win.
Q is for Queen's Park, Invercargill's picturesque green space that provided the starting and finishing point of the tour. It was also the scene of the 4.2km team time trial prologue around its perimeter. Amateur riders, the time to beat is 4min 38s by Hayden Roulston's Calder Stewart team.
R is for radio, the primary means of communication between officals during racing and also a primary source of amusement for the media courtesy of veteran commissaire Graham Sycamore's dry humour. A particular highlight was his suggestion that one of the race judges might've had numerical dyslexia, "but don't worry it's quite common - a hundred in every fourteen people have it".
S is for snow, or sheep. Take your pick, but after seven days the riders will have been thoroughly sick of the sight of both.
T is for twenty-one hours, sixteen minutes, thirty-nine seconds - the length of time it took Atkins to conquer this year's 900km route. T is also for Tim Carswell, the New Zealand track cycling coach who took up a bet with a colleague that he couldn't complete the tour at the ripe old age of 40 - and won.
U is for uniforms, and the wide variety on show. Unsurprisingly, the prominent maroon of the Southland Times team was a hit with the locals, Pure Black Racing were clear winners in the intimidation stakes, while Mico Protrain's blue-and-white numbers earned them the nickname "smurfs" from certain uncharitable sections of the media
V is for volunteers, without whom it wouldn't have been possible to host such a successful event. They dealt with every problem and issue in remarkbly good spirits - including journalists from Auckland who thought that a peloton was a kind of bakery and Nightcaps were a couple of whiskeys before bed.
W is for weather, which threw just about everything at the riders over the week: wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, even a bit of sun. But as Mr McCauley so eloquently put it, this wouldn't be the Tour of Southland without it. W is also for Winton, home of the world's largest cheese rolls.
X is for X-rated moments on tour. They included Josh Atkins' frank admission that he was "shitting his pants" before the final day's racing, and the unfortunate timing of a large media contingent that descended upon Hayden Roulston just as the Stage Two winner was relieving himself of his racing kit.
Y is for young guns, and doesn't New Zealand have some of them. Josh Atkins, Patrick Bevin, Tom Scully, Chris Macic, George Bennett, Alexander Ray and Myron Simpson were just a few to make big impressions on tour.
Z is for zzzzzs, something everyone involved in the tour will be catching up on today.