The riders set off on a cool spring Manawatu day, the pessimists amongst them adorned with raincoats. Typically, it was flat to the boards all the way to Ashhurt (Actually it’s Ashhurst, but in this case you might be right – Ed) with some short-lived breaks quickly enveloped by a frisky peloton. The better riders looked towards the two climbs on Colyton Rd to sort the bunch out a bit.
Craig Lawn and Steve Stannard were the first over the Watershed climb, but the bunch, with Jesse Sergent toying with the bunch at the front soon caught them on the fast downhill. Craig Lawn immediately launched another attack and, assured that a lone rider could not stay away, the now smaller bunch seemed disinclined to care. All the way to Cheltenham, Lawn dangled out in front whilst the riders that tried to bridge were quickly chased down.
Turning left down Haynes Line and into the lumpy roads, it seemed that Lawn was forgotten by all but Stannard who attacked again hoping to get across. Two riders up the road now, the rest were waiting for the short steep Beaconsfield climb for the real race to start. By this time the weather had cleared, but the wind had picked up so the 5km north up SH54 was hard going.
Mark Findlay bridged to Stannard with Lawn in site, but the two Bike Manawatu riders were quickly reeled in by the much reduced peloton. With Jesse opting to spend the rest of the race as a training ride, confidence of the other riders was renewed and the attacks started. Lawn seemed to be still gaining ground with the bunch unable to organize itself to chase effectively. Along Makino Rd Chris Sanson decided to clear the “dead wood” by throwing the race into the gutter – this was partly successful with only about ten riders left at Stanway. Along Tokorangi Rd, Angus Findlay tried to get away a few times, but the tailwind and lack of any substantial climbs put paid to his efforts.
A small group including the older Findlay, Stannard, Sanson, and Finley Brazier from Paraparaumu made a good break going into Feilding, but those riders who had spent much time sitting on put in a big effort to claw them back. A huge counter attack by Sanson saw the bunch start to splinter at speeds of 50-60 km/h down to Bunnythorpe.
Still Lawn was away and well out of sight by now, so there was a resignation that the race was for second place. The race down Stoney Creek Rd was that of tired riders making half-hearted attacks which were reeled in. Angus Findlay and Brazier finally managed to make a break and the others were too tired to follow.
Across the train line what was left of the bunch split with Sanson and Stannard with two others working hard to catch Findlay and partner. The latter two were too strong and pulled away to take second and third to a magnificent Lawn. Stannard came in fourth and Sanson fifth.
Congratulations to all who rode and also to the organisers on another typically well-run Tour de Manawatu.