You don’t get much better days in the Manawatu than last Sunday, not for riding a bike at least.
The Tour de Manawatu is a fun ride, but it’s really the biggest local race of the year. Well organized, a great course, good traffic management, and usually a strong bunch of riders.
In contrast to other years, the start and first section down Napier Rd to Ashhurst was fairly civilized, with few random high speed attacks. A small group lead by Neil Martin did make a break about halfway along, but couldn’t get much more than 100 m and were hauled back as we went through Ashhurst.
With the first climb imminent though, the bunch was getting itchy and the paced was pushed up the hill out of Ashhurst such that a split formed. A solo effort then by Campbell Stewart saw him leading up the Watersheds, but also a “rabbit” for the other junior riders. In catching him the front bunch split again and a few dozen then remained as we pressed onto Colyton at speeds exceeding 60 km/hr at times. The attacks then started thick and fast nearly all the way to Cheltenham, but few breaks managed to last more than a minute or two.
Just we passed the Chelty, and as the road rises for the first time, Robert Stannard and Neil Martin rode off the front, quickly making a 50 m lead. I took the chance to jump across to the front two, and George Roberts grabbed my wheel to make it four in front.
The other three riders being both capable and hard-working, we slowly drew the 50 m lead out to 150 m and by Beaconsfield, we’d lost them around the corners. Once that happens, the peleton usually starts to panic a bit and when that happens you know that a smooth working pattern will be difficult for them. Meanwhile, a break of four honest riders is pretty efficient, and so we began to really pull away from what I imagined was a chasing bunch where about half were sitting on and half doing work.
It’s a long way through those undulating back roads, but the four of us worked very consistently; I don’t think anyone missed a turn for 60 km or so. I was certainly feeling the cramps coming on out of Halcombe and by Feilding, I knew I was going to be in trouble if it came down to a sprint!
On Stoney Creek Rd, saw Neil was in trouble and dropped off the back on a rise. Along Napier Rd, I put in one attack, but that was quickly closed down by George along with a counter attack which I closed with some difficulty.
George led out the sprint and dropped me immediately. Robert quickly had his wheel though and pulled past George to easily take the win.
Well done to the other three riders in the break. You couldn’t ask to get away with any other riders as they were all strong and didn’t miss a turn.
Congrats also to the organisers for another great event and to whomever organized the weather!