Hillcrest High School student Steffie Holcroft walked away with Queen of the Mountain and Yellow jersey at the conclusion of the 38th Bike Manawatu Novice Tour held on 9 Oct in Palmerston North. She was 1 minute 27 seconds ahead of her Counties Manukau rival Devon Hiley and a further 1 minute 55 seconds back was Elise Salt. Not only did Holcroft take the two jerseys but she also won two of the three stages while also finishing second in the sprint ace competition. To the surprise of many Holcroft’s sporting passion is actually triathlon but the road cycling compliments her training.
So when she questioned about her win she was candid in her response suggesting that her expectations before the race had been set much lower. “I had come with hopes of winning the Queen of the Mountain category only,” she said. Things obviously changed after she was able to work out where she sat in a small, but highly competitive field of 10 female riders. Her results were one of the standout performances on the day.
Male winner Max Beckert, from Christchurch, also had a very similar story to tell. Hoping to ride in the North Island Secondary Schools competition over the same weekend in the Manawatu, his school, who shall remain nameless, failed to enter him, leaving him only to ride the Novice Tour. His win however, was much tighter than the female grade, with only 4 seconds separating him from Regan Gough (Central Hawkes Bay Cycling) and a further 47 seconds back to Liam Aitcheson (Central Otago Wakatipu Cycling). Like Holcroft, Beckerts expectations were realistic but he was overjoyed to have secured the yellow jersey. “I’m going to compete at the Yunca Tour next weekend and this win has given me some real confidence that I can do well,” he said.
A reasonable contingent of riders from the Manawatu entered the tour and there were some high hopes on these riders to finish on the podium in the male category. Mark Findlay was the best
Bike Manawatu finisher coming 9th; 1 minute 16 seconds down on Beckert. Jonty Hapeta was 21st while George Roberts and Andrew Bengston finished 27th and 28th respectively.
In the female category Kate Stewart’s resurgence from a debilitating ankle injury was confirmed when she took stage 1, taking also the WCNI female trophy and she came second in the Sprint Ace competition. Overall she finished in 5th place 10 minutes down on Holcroft. Much is to be said of the courage of Elizabeth Stannard, who as an U15 rider chose to ride amongst older and more physically developed riders. She can be justifiably proud of her performance on the day finishing 7th overall on general classification.
Organisers were very happy with the revised format of the Novice Tour having been forced to change much of the routes used previously due to the Rugby World Cup and the closure of the Manawatu Gorge. As a result the one day Novice Tour was reduced from four to three stages which gave riders greater opportunities to recover. “Even though we had reduced the numbers of stages this is still a very tough and challenging tour for riders said chief organiser,” Matthijs van Wagtendonk. “With 62 riders seeking to accept the challenge this year, we think we have a very good event”. “While we do compete at the same time as the North Island Secondary Schools competition our race targets the upper echelon of U17 riders”. While there might be some confliction, the two events work comfortably together he added.