Once again Bike Manawatu riders attended what is arguably the most important and popular tour on the Junior calendar. Past winners of the various age groups have gone onto bigger and better things and include Olympians Peter Latham, Westley Gough, and Rushlee Buchanan, and Tour winners such as Hayden McCormack, Josh Atkins, Gemma Dudley and Serena Sheridan. Doing well, it seems, is a prerequisite to future honours. Past Manawatu winners include Luke McCarthy (U19), James Dobson (U17), and Campbell Stewart (U15).
It’s not surprising therefore that much of the prize money was won by our current crop of Bike Manawatu juniors.
This was a three stage event, with two lumpy road rides and a time trial. Akin to last year’s race, doing well in the time trial was a necessity to do well on GC. For the U19 boys and girls, this stage was at the start of day 2 and for the younger riders, it was the opening stage. Top ten in this stage on the first morning included Campbell Stewart and Josh Kendall (U17 boys), and Michaela Drummond (U17 girls). Hamish Mikkleson was the “bolter” with an 11th place in that stage, putting him in a good position for a top GC placing. The boys and girls U15 were combined, but Libby Arbuckle showed good form by beating nearly half the boys field!
The first (road) stage in the U19 boys saw a big sprint finish with Mark Findlay second in the gallop. Matt Elliot and Luke Mudgway were up there too, but George Roberts was unlucky with a mechanical and lost a few minutes.
Our only BM rider in the U19 and open women’s race, Ruby Perry rode well, but finished a couple of minutes down on one of the strongest women’s fields in NZ this year.
The afternoon U17 boys race (stage 2 for them) was notable for Bike Manawatu, having some 16 riders from the 56 starters, by far the biggest representation of any one club in any grade. Their first road stage finished mainly as a group, but with Campbell Stewart (2nd) and Robert Stannard (3rd) just off the front in the final few hundred metres. That result put Campbell in 2nd place going into the last stage. Notable rides too from Chris Denholm (4th), and Carne Groube and Hayden Washington-Smith who all finished top ten in the stage. Sadly, Josh Kendall and Nate Levin, two form BM riders, crashed and finished their tour with a trip to the local hospital. The crash also held up a number of riders (including Cam Huston) preventing them finishing in the front bunch.
The U17 girls first road stage (2) saw the field split on the hills with a bunch of twelve contesting the sprint. Elizabeth Stannard and Michaela Drummond were both in the front group, which saw Bryony Botha from Auckland keep hold of the yellow jersey which she won in the time trial.
The U15 boys and girls both rode together, but the field blew apart on the hills and finish in dribs and drabs. Libby Arbuckle and Dylan Simpson finished best of the Bike Manawatu riders, 3 minutes down on the leaders.
Day two saw the U19’s start with their time trial, followed by an 88km road stage. Luke Mudgway and George Roberts both finished in the top ten in the time trial. The afternoon stage saw a breakaway by Max Beckert in the final kilometers, Mark Findlay jumped across from the bunch with 5km to go and crossed the line second just 7 seconds ahead of the main bunch, headed by Jordan Castle. In the end Regan Gough (Hawkes Bay) won the tour with Luke Mudgway a very impressive 4th – a result which should impress the selectors. One of BM’s fastest improving riders James Denholm didn’t feature in GC but rode consistently all weekend. In the end he was just pipped by Kyle Davie on GC. Mark Findlay finished top 10, and Matt Elliot an impressive 19th.
In the women’s race, Ruby and the other first year U19 riders finished well down from the harder (and older) second year and open women riders. This is where the old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” rings true, and we’ll certainly see Ruby benefiting from her TA experience.
The U17 boys headed out for a hilly 86km race. A solo breakaway by Keegan Girdlestone (Canterbury) went out to 2 minutes before being pulled back in on the final lap. Corben Mason-Smith (Hawkes Bay) made a break some 15 km out and the bunch couldn’t quite reel him in by the finish. He subsequently won the stage and the race from Campbell (who was just pipped by fellow BM rider Alex West in the stage sprint finish). Robert finished 8th on GC, Hamish 9th, and Alex 11th. Other notable rides were from Carne Groube, Jake van Lienen, Hayden Washington-Smith, and Chris Denholm who finished 15th, 16th, 17th and 19th on GC respectively. Jacob Sievwright and Cody Simpson (coming back from injury) finished top 30. The race proved a bit of a “baptism of fire” for Mitchell Kinghorn, Joel Yates, and young trackie Fergus Allen, but they will find the going easier the next time they do a tour of this quality.
The final road stage for the U17 girls saw a small group of five get away on the second lap over the KOM climb and included the yellow jersey and Elizabeth Stannard. They worked hard to increase the margin and in the five-up sprint for the stage win, Elizabeth got her wheel over the line first. The win pulled Elizabeth up to 5th on GC, with Michaela close by on 7th. Simone Davie deserved the prize for tenacity, not enjoying the hills but working hard to complete each stage ahead of a bunch of other U17 girls.
In the final U15 stage, Libby was unfortunately unable to hang onto Jenna Merrick (Auckland), who got away with a group of boys and gained enough time to win the stage and overall GC.
All of our U15 boys, being first years, found the older more experienced riders difficult to beat. Dylan was the best GC finisher on 14th, with Flynn Yates an impressive 17th, and Harrison Kinghorn riding strongly to finish 19th. All will be up there in the same grade next year for certain.
The parents, by and large, did a great job, but probably spent too much money at the coffee cart!