Not long after Gemma Newland left Havelock North High School in 2000 she had competed in her maiden cycling event, the Tour of the Bay.
A chuckling Newland recalled she was in the saddle of a mountainbike and was among the stragglers that day in the 50km race that took about 2h 15m but all that changed almost two decades on yesterday. "I had so much fun in 2000 that I wanted to be part of that," said the 37-year-old Hastings rider after she won the Cycle Nation 40km women's race — her first tour one — along the Tukituki circuit.
She clocked 1h 17m 44.74s to outsprint 17-year-old Sophie Etheridge, of Napier, by 0.14 seconds and former Bay masters rider Mary Cullen, of Wellington, by 0.62s in a mixed gender field of 31 to finish sixth rider overall in the House of Travel-sponsored tour.
The irony is Newland, an endurance rider, had entered the 100km event but a cursory glance of the technical aspects of the roadworks early on the route on Saturday had had her doubting her skills because a solitary 80km stint didn't appeal.
"I dropped down to the 40k and because it's a shorter distance it makes more a difference what group you get into because if you get in you can hang on," said the recruitment service manager of Red Consulting.
A cluster of six had maintained a honest pace in the field of 13 female riders leading to a sprint in the final corner of a circuit that offered a few hills at the start on a fast track familiar to Hawke's Bay Ramblers Club members.
Newland took her cue from sprinter Mark Waldin, keeping up with him at the last corner but could feel Etheridge and Cullen breathing down her neck.
"I don't know, [I won] by maybe half a wheel so there was only millimetres and seconds in it."
A double-lap Round the Lake enthusiast in Taupo annually, Newland said on a good day she was all right with a bit of a sprint.
Newland, a former surgical nurse, did dancing and ballet from age 4.
"I did soccer, netball and volleyball at school but I always liked going for adventures on my bike," she said, saluting the organisers for a well-run tour that got riders out of the city but back for a get together.
St John's College schoolteacher Chris Hansen won the male equivalent race, clocking 1:12:10.50. with fellow Bay riders Toby Evans, a teenager, runner-up and Andrew Richardson third in another sprint finish.
In the endurance races, Rambler Kerri-anne Page, was the first one home in 2:54:54.01 after the sunrise start in the two-lap race in a total field of 96.
Page, who shifted to Auckland with husband Josh to work as a marketing assistant with a bike manufacturer in June, attacked from the beginning to hold on to the finish line.
"It wasn't an easy day," said the 30-year-old who tried to keep up with U19 winner Jack Spencer but at the 20km hung out with Josh's group before they left her behind.
She did not see Hastings pair Aimee Shaw (2:55:10.53), the U19 winner, and Carol McCallum (2:55:11.77), the masters 5 winner, who finished second and third, respectively.
Page is looking forward to a fruitful year with a farmer-driven Tank Guy Bike Box Cycle Team, of Palmerston North, this year.
Napier rider Matt Webb-Smith (Napier) 2:38:30.91 clinched the men's equivalent in a total field of 87.
Napier sparky Ben Earnshaw (5:45:11.82) showed he is force after taking up endurance rides seriously in 2012 to claim the 200km men's bragging rights.
2004 Coast to Coast winner George Christison missed a podium placing on account of a deflated tyre.
Eileen Campbell, 32, clocked 8h 5m 47.25s to win the women's equivalent despite four punctures.
David Chote was the 40km Ebike winner, clocking 1h 12m 12.97s as the only rider in the new category.
"It was good. I was just trying to keep up with the other guys," Chote said from Mary Doyle Trust Life Care Complex (retirement home) in Havelock North.
The former Parallel Block/Readymix proprietor and Tile Warehouse franchise owner is 81 and enjoying the excursion after knee surgery over the years.
"It's a good workout and there isn't much pain as I try to keep up with the guys I used to ride with," Chote said, adding some company in the Ebike would be great.
An on-and-off Ramblers member for 60 years, he had the company of four in the grade at the Round the Lake Taupo ride last year, an event he has taken part in several times in his heyday.
Among other sponsors, organiser Marg Porter thanked Bay Ford Mazda for supplying transport for lead cars and sag wagons as well as HaHa Wines for best dressed gender prizes to Jo Robson and Martin Honey.
"Brendon Hutchison was our medic on the day but, thankfully, we had no casualties," Porter said.
Cycle Nation, 40km, women: 1st Gemma Newland, 2nd Sophie Etheridge (Napier), 3rd Mary Cullen (Hastings).
Men: 1st Chris Hansen, 2nd Toby Evans, 3rd Andrew Richardson, all of HB.
House of Travel, 100km, women: 1st Kerri-anne Page (Auckland), 2nd Aimee Shaw (Hastings), 3rd Carol McCallum (Hastings).
Men: 1st Matt Webb-Smith (Napier), 2nd Maddi Hartley-Brown (Pahiatua ), 3rd Josh Page (Auckland).
Roosters Craft Brewery 200km, women: 1st Aileen Campbell, a massive effort after having x4 punctures.
Men: Ben Earnshaw (Napier), 2nd Darryl Strachan (Napier), 3rd Patrick Kelly (Hastings).