Bissell‘s Omer Kem is training and racing in New Zealand to get ready for the 2009 season. Along with teammates Jeremy Vennell and Pete Latham, he is currently racing in the 22nd edition of the Trust House Cycle Classic International Tour of Wellington, a 5-day, 7 stage race which one of New Zealand’s premier cycling events.
Two stages are now completed in the UCI 2.2 race, and Omer sent in this report:
Racing in New Zealand is much different than the US. It is very aggressive and out of control. At the major tours, Southland and Wellington, team’s are limited to 5 riders. This makes it almost impossible to control a race. Coming from the US, it makes it hard to adapt to the style of racing. For example, it is non stop attacking from the beginning to the end of every race. Almost every guy in the tour thinks he can win and it is more like cage fighting than bike racing….
Team Budget Forklifts of Australia set the fastest time of 09:38 over the 8.4 km in the stage 1 team time trial, which gave the leader’s yellow jersey to 21-year old Australian Jack Anderson. Omer’s composite team, Cardno, finished 16 seconds off the winning time. Omer continues:
Right now we are sitting around recovering from stage 2 of the Tour of Wellington. The team I am racing for is a composite team put together by the promoter. I am lucky to have Jeremy Vennell and Pete Latham with me, they will both be my teammates on Bissell Pro Cycling in 2009. Stage 1 was a team time trial. I really wasn’t looking forward to this stage because I knew I was going to suffer beyond belief. Jeremy just won the NZ National TT Champs and Pete is a NZ olympian in the Pursuit. We did well with little practice to 6th place out of 15 teams. We knew that stage 2 would be much more decisive….
The 83-mile (133 km) second stage took the riders from Featherston to Masterton with the ascent of Te Wharau hill coming at 65-mile (105km) marker followed by a fast descent to the finish.
Omer’s take on the second stage:
The attacks started immediately in today’s race. Jeremy and I ended up away early but with a KOM coming 30km from the finish, it was too early to stay away. We hit it hard over the climb and Jeremy was able to ride away with 3 others and I was the small chase group sitting on in case Jeremy’s group came back. The team that had the leaders jersey chased hard till the last climb, which should have been a KOM, and then all got dropped because the other guys in the break starting attacking them. It was full on to the finish. Jeremy ended up 2nd and moved into 2nd overall. I was somewhere around the top 10. We are happy because we have no interest in defending the jersey till after Jeremy wins the Individual TT on Saturday morning, I believe in him….
With the time bonuses on the line for his second place finish behind newly crowned Australian Road Race Champion Peter McDonald (Drapac Porsche), Vennell moved up to the third spot in GC at only 8 seconds back. Tim Roe (Savings and Loans) who finished third on stage 2 squeezed into second place with only a second on Vennell. (Complete results here)
The Tour of Wellington is known as a climbers’ race. Even though it was shortened by 60 km this year, the 77 mile (125 km) stage 3 is a prime example, starting in Masterton to finish with a gruelling climb up Admiral Hill.
Tomorrow is stage 3, a big hill top finish and then there is a hard circuit race for stage 4. Saturday and Sunday are both double days which makes it hard on us racers, but that is also kiwi style. I love New Zealand, I have been here since November training for the upcoming US season. Thanks for reading and I will keep the updates coming!!
Photo of Omer Kem taken at Tour of Utah 2008.