The day dawned a typical clear calm Manawatu spring day, perfect for a bike race. The Junior Tour had been long in it’s preparation and those many hard-working Bike Manawatu volunteers charged with delivering what is New Zealand’s premier U17 tour were pleased the day had finally come. The race was conducted over three stages, all on the one day, starting and finishing in Ashhurst. It attracts the countries best U/17 cycling talent. Recent previous winners include Olympians Shane Archbold, Westley Gough, and Sam Bewley.
First off were the boys on the 47 km Hiwinui Loop race, but starting up over the Watersheds. We known to us at Bike Manawatu, the testing course had two KOMs, two intermediate sprints and a fast decent to the Mulgrave St finish.
The first test for the bunch was the KOM at the top of the Watersheds. This was won by Regan Gough (Central Hawkes Bay), but the effort did not manage to split the bunch. They remained intact for the first intermediate sprint which was narrowly won by Jordan Castle from fellow Bike Manawatu rider, Matt Elliott. The second KOM appeared to create some cracks in the bunch and George Roberts and Ben Ross from Ramblers picked up the big points on the second intermediate sprint by virtue of their two-man breakaway. The field reeled them in before the finish though, setting up a sprint which was eventually taken out by Luke Mudgway (CHB). Josh Kendall and James Denholm were other Bike Manawatu contenders n the gallop crossing the line in 7th and 9th positions respectively.
The girls rolled out 5 minutes after the boys. Their bunch of 14 split on the first QOM, won by Maddison Farrant (Hamilton), with Kate Stewart and Elizabeth Stannard surviving in the subsequent leading group of eight. Despite the fasting pace and rolling terrain, only one rider dropped from the eight and a finishing sprint of seven ensued. Kate Stewart stamped her authority and claim on the leaders (orange) jersey by winning the sprint from Maddy Farrant and Lydia Rippon (Auckland).
Stage 2 was a time trial of just over 7 and a half km. Best of the Bike Manawatu boys in this race of truth was Nate Levin, who literally made good headway into a nasty headwind along Grove Rd. Other notable Bike Manawatu riders in the ITT were George Roberts (8th), Josh Kendall (11th), and Josh Kendall (13th).
Kate Stewart again showed her form with second place in the girls ITT. Elizabeth Stannard, Ruby Perry and Britteny Baker were a little further back in the field.
The last stage of the boys race was typically hard. The climb up Valley Rd decimated the field and the resulting front bunch of nearly 20 quickly built a lead of over 2 minutes to the chasers. The big KOM was won by Sam Dobbs, with the second and third KOM’s being won by Harry Elworthy (Nth Harbour) and Regan Gough respectively. A crash after the second intermediate sprint at Colyton ended Josh Kendall’s race.
Two of the intermediate sprints were taken out by Luke Mudgway, who deservedly took home the green Sprint Ace jersey. In the end, there were 17 riders left for the winning sprint, and again Luke Mudgway took the honours from Regan Gough. Of the thirty two riders that finished, James Denholm, Jordan Castle and Matt Elliot rode strongly to finish in the second half of a strong field. While Nate Levin (5th) and George Roberts (7th) stood out for Bike Manawatu.
The Valley Rd climb also took it’s toll on the smaller girls field; five riders being left at the top of the climb including Elizabeth and Kate. Maddy Farrant, in typical fashion, won the KOM and the intermediate sprint at Colyton. A race of attrition now commenced, Kate held on until the second QOM sprint on the last of the Colyton Road hills, Georgia Vessey (Alexandra) made it to Bunnythorpe and Elizabeth clung on until they turned towards Ashhurst for the final sprint. Maddy Farrant and Maggie Allan (Hamilton) had proved too strong for the rest of the field, and fought it out across the line. Maddy Farrant completed a dominant day, winning not only the final sprint on Stage 3, but the Tour Leader’s orange jersey, as well as the QOM and Sprint Queen jerseys. Ruby Perry fought back after a disappointing first stage to stay with the chasing group and finish 12th across the line and 12th overall on GC. Britteny Baker also had a tough day in the saddle, but managed to keep a smile on her face. In the end Elizabeth finished 3rd on GC and Kate 5th.
The Tour was yet another success for Bike Manawatu and showcased the country’s best junior riders. Kudos to Steve Challies and the team for organizing a quality race.