On Thursday the 8th of May, Campbell Stewart, Chris Denholm, Carne Groube and I met at Palmerston North Airport. We were about to leave for Canberra, Australia for the Peter Blackshaw Real Estate 2014 Junior and Women’s Canberra Tour. We flew to Auckland where we met John Rippon, the coach, and Connor Brown. (Brayden Stephens, the last rider of the team, was flying from Christchurch to Canberra). Our next flight was to Melbourne, then to Canberra. We stayed at the student accommodation flats of Canberra University.
On the Friday, we unpacked our bikes
and went for a practice ride of the course. It began at Canberra’s purpose built criterium course, which had a stadium, and warm-up area, and went along the famously hilly Uriarra Rd. Our courses were out and back, one stage 20km out, another 25 km, but this meant we had to climb every hill twice! From our perspective it was looking like it was going to be the hardest tour yet, with (on the 3rd 50km stage) featuring four 2km+ climbs, at some stages reaching up to over 10%!
Stage 1: ITT: 13.5 km
The BikeNZ team setup right next to the start finish, which meant we could warm up until the last minute. Campbell was off first, followed by Brayden, then me. Our team all placed in the top 11, Me coming First by 20seconds, followed by Campbell 30seconds down, and Connor and Brayden 5th and 6th places and Chris and Carne 10th and 11th. Luckily the TT turned around just before the first big hill, but even so it was still very hilly.
Stage 2: Road Race: 40km
This race started in the afternoon at the Crit course, about 2hrs after the TT. The first stage of a tour, as always, everyone is very tense, but this loosened up as someone attacked down the first descent, and the field split on the climb back up, all of the NZ riders in the front bunch. (except for Chris, who chased for 20km after puncturing, and got back on just before the last descent, not to mention also finishing 4th!) We all worked as a team and other than a small crash at the turn, things went smoothly. We had sheared the field down to only 14 riders. In the sprint, Campbell took the win over his sprint rival, Cameron Scott, and Chris finished 4th with Brayden 5th. Campbell’s first place in the stage boosted him into second place on GC, so that put the NZ team 1st and 2nd overall.
Stage 3: Road Race: 50km
Stage 3 was considerably harder because it had two extra climbs and descents. Once again we dominated the first climb, but this time we took care to position ourselves at the front before the descent, to get a good position on the climb. At the top the bunch had been shredded to less than 10 riders, but after sitting up it was back up to about 20. Along the flat section before the next climb, we allowed Connor to escape with two Australians, our plan to attack after the turn and catch him on the uphill. This worked perfectly, and with 11 riders still left in the bunch, 5 of which were from New Zealand, we had total control of the race. On the next hills, Chris claimed 2 KOM sprints which placed him second in the classification. For the sprint finish Campbell was pipped on the line by Cameron Scott, and I came in third. Once again Chris finished 4th.
Stage 4: Criterium: 20mins +3 laps
The final stage was the criterium, in which our plan was to lead Campbell out for the win with a lead out train. We kept the pace high, our team controlling the race, with an average speed of about 45kmh. the purpose built criterium circuit was hot-mix surface and very fast. On the second to last lap Connor set onto the front, with me on his wheel, and Campbell on mine. The lead out train should have been longer, and after an insane 1.5 lap sprint from Connor, luckily carne pulled up to the front and allowed for my final burst to slingshot Campbell for the win to be shorter and sharper. We left it too late, and took the final corner too wide. Cameron Scott came round on the inside clipping the grass, and Campbell could not make up the distance lost. The results were me 2nd, Campbell 3rd.
The Canberra tour was incredibly successful for the BikeNZ team, placing 1st and 2nd and 5th, from Me Campbell and Connor. It was awesome that 4 out of 6 riders in the team were from Bike Manawatu, which shows Manawatu’s dominance in the junior cycling scene. Thanks to Bike Manawatu for the Junior Development Fund Grant which allowed me to go and race.
By Robert Stannard