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The Rice Mountain Classic

A small bunch of around 20 riders started in A-grade; not many but a pretty good field which included two Pure Black riders (seemingly doing their last race in that team…), USA-based pro Jeremy Vennell, the Wheel-Works team, and a few from the Sth Island. In contrast, there were over 50 riders in B grade and 22 in C grade. The women’s race had only nine, but good quality riders.

I’ve done this race once before – running 6th in 2006 when Mike Torckler won – and thoroughly enjoyed the (very) hilly course.

There are four climbs: The first two being Millers road and Limeworks hill. Whilst they are each only about 150 m in elevation, the are steep enough to remove the weaker riders from the bunch. The race finishes up the long, but varying climb of Admiral’s Hill, but the killer is the previous shorter but steeper climb up Kurnau.

I made every effort to try to get away early, knowing that without my usual training rides up the Track and Saddle my climbing legs would be on vacation. However, the WheelWorks team seemed hell-bent on chasing everything down to give Andy Hagen his best chance of winning. They did such a good job that I did not see Andy on the front until Miller’s Rd. There were a few others who also attacked; a small group forming at about 40 km which included Stu Houtham from WheelWorks but which was chased down primarily by Vennell.

In the end, and as I expected, I could not quite hold onto the better climbers up Kurnau when Scott Lyttle pushed the pace. I decided to save a bit of energy for Admiral’s so took my time until another two riders, including Mark Langlands, caught up just over the top. These two managed to drop me on the subsequent descent, but with some energy left in my legs I passed these and two others climbing the 12 km or so to the finish. I was not displeased with my 8th place, but I reckon my chances would have been better if I’d had the opportunity to do a few more long climbs in training.

Paul Deuritz utilized his climber’s physique to grab third in B grade. A fantastic ride from possibly the oldest rider in that grade! Rachel Southee should be pleased with her ride in the Women’s race, taking 3rd place. Rachel is my tip to win something big this year in the Open Women’s racing in NZ.

A little disappointing not to see a few more Bike Manawatu riders down there. Let’s see if we can get a few more down there to what is really one of the only truly hilly races around.