Don’t invite the Bike Manawatu School riders to a schools competition and expect them to just make up the numbers.
Well that’s the conclusion that can be drawn after Bike Manawatu school riders essentially dominated all grades in the Wellington Schools competition held in Upper Hutt on 18 September in cool and damp conditions.
A sizeable contingent of 51 riders went south with no other purpose but to dominate proceedings and like previous years, they did exactly that in the three disciplines of hill climbing, the individual time trial and criterium racing.
Libby Arbuckle was the only U13 female but nevertheless proved she was worthy of her placing when she was required to ride amongst the U15 girls grade. In the U15 girls Michaela Drummond (Freyberg High), Elizabeth Stannard and Brittany Baker (PNGHS) proved they were just as a competitive taking 1st, 3rd and 4th placing respectively. Michaela proved she was a class above all the others by taking out all three events. Her performance confirms she is definitely someone who could really go far in cycling.
In the U15 boys, Bike Manawatu riders secured 9 of the top ten places in general classification with the top three going to Connell Leahy, Josh Kendall (PNBHS) and Campbell Stewart (PNINS).
For Campbell Stewart his excellent performance in Wellington also came on top of his outstanding win in the intermediate school champs held in Taupo on 16 September. Campbell will definitely be a rider to watch out for and he is one who clearly demonstrated maturity and cunning well beyond his years when he secured first place in the criterium race from older and stronger riders.
Another to put his hand up was Nate Levin (PNBHS). This little known rider, who is new to cycling, continues to go from strength to strength and he managed to show some consistency to secure fourth place overall to nudge out fellow school mates Chris Denholm and Alex West.
In the U17 girls competition, proceeding there were dominated by Kate Stewart (PNGHS) who secured wins in all three events. She was followed in second place by her close friend Ruby Perry (PNGHS). Of real interest was the inseparable Stewart/Perry combination who rode away from more fancier riders in the combined U17/19 girls criterium. When questioned what was the motivation behind their willingness to take a risk, Ruby Perry replied “ that the bunch was just pissing about and we saw it as an opportunity to steal a win”. This combination has already been proven on the track and it will be something that WCNI and national track selectors will wish to develop further.
There was a lot of interest in the U17 boys grade. Their aggressiveness always makes riding both spectacular and interesting. Mark Findlay (PNBHS) was narrowly beaten overall on general classification and had to settle for second but Mark had clearly demonstrated his strength in the criterium race. Jonty Hapeta (PNBHS) was another who rose to occasion to secure third place by one point from Charles Salmon (Kapiti College). Of the top ten finishers, Bike Manawatu riders filled five of the places.
A very small field of five women entered the U19 grade. While the grade was won by Gabriella Peach (Aotea College), Kelsi Eccles and Kathryn Young took second and third respectively.
In the U19 mens grade PNBHS had a number of riders entered. Matiu Kaihau (PNBHS) was the standout rider taking the hill climb and individual time trial events while having to settle for second equal with Angus Findlay in the criterium. On general classification the event went to Matiu, Jaycob Humphreys and Angus Findlay with only one point separating Jaycob and Angus for second and third place.
“The results from the days racing are testament that the Bike Manawatu Schools programme is working and working very well”, said Matthijs van Wagtendonk. “If you look at the results we contributed roughly 45% of the riders to the Wellington competition but we took home over 95% of the major placings – that speaks volumes for the riders and their coaches”, he added.
While not everyone can win there are lots of positives coming out of these competitions and that is the quality of riders that the region is producing.
This bodes very well for the future of Bike Manawatu.