Firstly I'd like to thank Bike Manawatu for their contribution which helped me to travel to Australia to compete at the International Track Series in Melbourne as a member of the U19 Track Development Squad. This event involved 4 days of Track Racing at the Darebin Velodrome with a number of countries making last ditch effort for Olympic Selection.
This was an awesome experience with Australia fielding a strong U19 Team also, with their Junior Worlds Team in attendance. The New Zealand squad performed strongly in both the men’s and women’s fields. This week of training and racing clearly set me up well for my road racing the following weekend!
A big thanks must go to Cycling New Zealand for providing this opportunity and in particular to Jon Andrews for the organisation.
Once the racing in Melbourne was over I flew to Canberra arriving 4 days out from competition. After spending a couple of days in Canberra riding around the courses and adjusting to the negative temperatures, John Rippon (the NZ U19 men's road coach) and 4 other kiwi boys arrived. Much welcomed company after a few days by myself.
I placed a bit of pressure on myself to perform going into all of the races as it was an important stepping stone before I headed to Canada a week after arriving back in NZ. The build-up was going really well so I thought I would have a chance to place quite high. The Aussies are quite well known for aggressive racing and quite big bunches with lots of talented riders so I knew if I wanted to go well I really had to be at my best.
The first event up was the individual time trial on Friday. The course was quite a hilly one which meant it would be impossible to find a rhythm. The conditions were almost perfect. Wasn't too cold with not a breath of wind. I had high expectations going into this event but was disappointed to only get 16th.
With a number of riders taking well-earned breaks following the National Championships the previous weekend, the field was smaller than expected for a handicap race on the Halcombe/Stanway circuit last Saturday. Nevertheless, with some good handicapping and some quality riders made for a very competitive race.
The limit riders on the 41 km course (first to go) were Sam Russell, Katherine Stannard, Ben Irvine, Zoe Croton, Jamie Dennis (‘limit’ group). Tom Pirie was next, on his own 4 min later, then a small but strong group of Mike Craine, Chris Pinkney, and Toshi were at 12 min. Angus Claasen and Ethan Craine were given the hardest task, off ‘block’ with Joel Yates, Steve Stannard and James Denholm on scratch (20 min) only 6 min behind. All the groups worked hard, and the race all came together on the last hill on Tokorangi Rd before the descent into Halcombe.
In the end, Joel was just too strong for the rest of the bunch finishing just ahead of Angus in 62 min (average 39 km/h). James was third across the line just a few seconds behind. Three of the younger riders did one lap, with Kyra Craine first home in 69 min, Josh Mulchay 2nd, and Alex Croton 3rd.
The weather for race 4 of the series on Saturday afternoon looked particularly bad, at least at 11 am in the morning. The consistent showers were looking like dampening the ride and there were some calls to postpone. Experience, though, tells us that if you cancel a race because of the weather, the sun then comes out! The race organisers decided to keep to plan and start the ITT at Ashhurst on time at 1:30 pm. True to form, the rain stopped at 1:25 pm and the sun later came out. The dozen or so people who turned up for the TT were given fantastic conditions and some very fast times recorded. Robert Stannard recorded the fastest time over 24 km of 33:03 min, followed by Carne Groube on 34:24 and James Denholm on 35:42. Glen Kirk was looking good until his effort was thwarted by a flock of sheet, but and adjusted time of 53:52 gave him fourth. In the 15 km race, fastest was Emily Shearman on 24:38, followed by Michael Richmond on 28:28.
Next morning the last race (5) of the series at Linton was held. This was a kermesse around Linton Army Camp on some very fast hot mix roads. Grades C and D were combined into one race (15 min plus two laps). B grade completed 25 min plus two laps, and A grade rode 30 min plus three laps. In the C/D race, Ewan Cousins was first, Dra's Caldwell second, and Sam Russell placed third in a hard fought race which ended in an exciting group sprint. In a very strong and competitive B grade, the attacks around the circuit were thick and fast, with a number of riders tailing off as a result. Thomas Stannard used his smarts by attacking just before the final corner to easily win the sprint. He was followed by Michael and then Ethan Craine. In A grade, the smallest field of seven riders, it was out of the blocks. After just one lap Robert Stannard took a flyer which split the bunch wide open. Alex West and Campbell Stewart quickly got together to catch Robert, leaving the strongest three riders out front. The remaining riders, Steve Stannard, George Roberts, James Denholm, and Andrew McKenzie worked hard, but in vain, to catch the leading trio. In the end, Robert attacked his counterparts with a lap to go to seal the win, Alex was second across the line, and Campbell third.
The prize money pool has been decided and can be found here. Cheques will be written and distributed as soon as possible. If you have not yet helped out with a race but won prize money, you may be required to help in a future race before the prize money is paid to you. Much thanks should go to Glen Kirk for sponsoring the series.
A solid contingent of green jerseys made it down to the bottom part of the South Island for the 2016 National Club Road Championships. For all but the Open and U23 riders, this is the pinnacle event of the NZ road calendar where selections for World Champs (junior and masters) are on the line. Not surprisingly, the competition and the standard of racing was very high, especially from the South Islanders, some of whom are “enigmas” who we hear about, but see rarely this side of Cook Straight.
Michael Groube led the team, firstly organizing transport of most of the (many) bikes and wheels, and driving them all the way down to the race. He was also in charge of team management and ensuring all riders were prepared for their races. Much thanks should go to Michael, without whom participation would have proven impossible for most.
Thursday the 21st was the individual time trial; 15 km for U17 and younger, and Masters 4 and older. The rest did 25 km. The course was fast for the first 5 km before a nasty little climb and some rollers. The longer course turned left and went up a very long false flat before turning around to a very fast second half. Those with the leg speed were rewarded with good times; the best of the BM riders being Robert Stannard who placed second in the U19 men.
The road races were held over the next three days starting with the U15s and U17s on the Friday. The course was on an undulating circuit with no long climbs, but little chance for recovery if the going got tough. The finish, however, consisted of a left turn off the main course up a climb which began steeply, but gradually leveled out and finishing after around 2 km from the turn.
Organiser Rob Ryan and SPCA marketing manager Marty O'Fee both riding on this charity tour can be proud of the team of 20 local Bike Manawatu riders and their amazing support person when they banded together last week to tackle the 640k SPCA ride from Palmy to Akaroa and return home safely after five hard days having raised over $8000 for the SPCA.
The group trained hard over the summer and were farewelled by supporters on the 15th of March from the Bike Barn in two groups of 10 for safety reasons on the anticipated first leg of the journey in overcast windy weather soon after to turn to rain.Oh Joy.
On arrival in Wellington and after a pre arranged shower at the Wellington Intercontinental the group enjoyed a dinner out and a few shandies before boarding the BlueBridge Ferry to Picton that night departing at 2am.