Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby Melissa_Theuriau on Sat 5/Dec/09 9:37pm

Up and Comers & Olympians Dominate Day One

Olympian Cath Cheatley and rising star Jack Bauer confirmed their class with impressive wins against impressive competition in day one of Christchurch’s Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling.

Christchurch dawned cold and blustery as almost 1500 riders took to the gruelling 80k ride around the Lyttelton Harbour bays this morning. But the weather failed to dim the racing up front, with the feature Avanti Long Bays Classic getting under way with a hiss and a roar as a field full of nationals reps, New Zealand champions and world and Olympic medallists decided the best way to warm up was to hit it hard right from the gun.

As the front of the race whipped through Cashmere and Halswell at speeds between 50k and 60k per hour, Jack Bauer was grinning to himself. Hard is how exactly how New Zealand’s fastest rising road cyclist likes it. In little more than a year the former national mountain bike rep has become renowned for his aggressive racing. It earned him some notable success too, with half a dozen wins in Europe this year and second placings in both the New Zealand club champs and the prestigious Tour of Southland.

So in Christchurch today it wasn’t a surprise to see the Takaka rider start a series of attacks that eventually led to a breakaway on the famed climb up Gebbies Pass.

“Actually, I’d been trying to get away before then,” said Bauer after taking his first major win on the national road season. “But the wind was all over the place today and it was hard to do something by yourself. It finally broke up on Gebbies Pass, and when I saw Heath and James coming with me I knew we had a pretty good chance of staying away to the finish.”

That’s exactly what happened. With Bauer and Blackgrove doing most of the work they whipped up and down Gebbies Pass to reach the harbour bays with a 30 second lead. They continued attacking on the short steep hills around the harbour and by Governers Bay the gap was 45 seconds and the young Williamson had been shelled.

“Once we got to Governers Bay without being caught I knew we would stay away,” said Bauer. But Heath Blackgrove was thinking the same.

The Athens Olympian has ridden every Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling and never stood on the top step of the podium. With his recent win in the Tour of Southland Blackgrove knew this could be his year, but he also knew the powerful Bauer would be hard to contain in a sprint, and set about dispatching the less experienced rider on the hilly harbour roads.

But it wasn’t to be. “Heath really made it hard coming into Lyttelton and again up Evans Pass,” said Bauer. “I was really hurting, and he got away a bit, but I knew if I could stay close enough I’d have a shot at the finish.”

Blackgrove, meanwhile, was having troubles of his own. “I really tried to lose him over Evans,” he explained. “But after working so hard over the top my legs started cramping and he managed to get back.”

Coming through Sumner and Redcliffs with less than 3k to go their lead was well over a minute and the inevitable waiting games began. Into the final kilometre Blackgrove sat back, forcing Bauer into a long sprint. “I’ve had some good sprints in the States this year,” said Blackgrove, who races professionally on the strong American scene. “But Jack was just too strong and I couldn’t come around him.”

When Bauer crossed the line he was still looking sideways waiting for Blackgrove’s challenge and didn’t relax into a grin until 10 metres past the finish line. Bother riders were awarded the same time, 1hr 54min 18secs, and 72secs clicked by before Hamilton’s Mathew Gorter outsprinted the 20-strong bunch for third place.

For Bauer it was a winning end to a breakthrough year. The 24 year old is keen to cement his arrival as a world class talent by winning the New Zealand elite title in January back in Christchurch, but revealed he also has some longer terms goals to explore this summer. “I’m going to be spending some time training with the national track squad, just to see if I have some options there for the future,” he explained.

“I’ll do some training in Invercargill over the summer and race the individual pursuit at the track nationals. We just want to see what I might do on the track. I have no experience there what so ever, so I’m not expecting much. But when you look at all the top guys in Europe, the riders like me who excel in one day races in tough conditions all have good track backgrounds. So if nothing else, some work on the track this summer should help my road racing.”

Cath Cheatley could tell Bauer a thing or two about transferring track experience to the international road scene. The 26 year old has a world championship bronze medal on the track, but in 2010 she focused purely on the road and following several top placings on the American circuit she claimed an impressive ninth place in the world road championships in Italy.

Cheatley illustrated her class today in Christchurch, leading from start to finish, becoming the first person to win back to back titles in the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling. But for most of the race she wasn’t entirely convinced she had the lead.

“That was really tough,” said Cheatley. “It was really windy and the top guys started so fast that people were getting shelled left right and centre. I got caught behind early on so it was hard to keep track of the other women. Eventually I got in a good group and Laura Luxford joined us, but we weren’t really sure we were the first women.”

“I got away from Laura into the wind toward Gebbies and got onto another good group around the bays. We started picking riders up and none of them were women, so eventually I figured I was leading. But the same thing happened to me last year when I only caught Ruth Corset (Australia) in the last 2k, so all I could do was work as hard as I could to the finish.”

That proved more than enough. Cheatley clocked in at 2hrs 05min 34secs, winning exactly three minutes clear of Luxford and Queenstown’s Rachel Mercer.

In other events today, more than 100 kids took to the road for the Benchmark Mini-Bays, riding with a 5k or 10k option. Christchurch’s Ian Smallman held out a huge bunch by just eight seconds to win the Armstrong Motor Group Harbour Ride, a recreational event with more than 1000 starters over the same course as the elite riders.

The inaugural Armstrong Motor Group Mountain Bike was won by Wellington’s Brendon Sharratt, who finished 18secs clear of Blenheim’s Richard Anderson. The highlight of the 35k ride around the Port Hills was the women’s race where a torrid battle between New Zealand number two Nic Leary (Rotorua) and up and comer Sara Taylor (Christchurch) resulted in an upset win for the local rider. Taylor crossed the line 17secs clear of Leary, with her winning time of 1hr 27min 43secs good enough to claim 10th place overall.

Tomorrow the action shifts to the inner city for the Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium on the exciting Oxford Terrace circuit along Christchurch’s cafe strip. The fast and furious criterium circuit will be even more competitive than today’s road race, with Olympic medallist Mark Ryan and recent World Cup gold medallist Tom Scully adding their names to a start list that includes today’s top two, Bauer and Blackgrove, plus specialists such as former world champion Hayden Godfrey (Christchurch) and Olympian Robin Reid (Nelson).

The women’s race also has some dark horses, with Australian champion Carla Ryan and New Zealand rep Rachel Buchanan lining up against the likes of today’s top three, Cheatley, Luxford and Mercer, and national rep Marina Duvnjak (Auckland).

Racing starts Sunday morning from 11:00am on Oxford Terrace, with events including BMX and Penny Farthings demonstrations, fun race for kids and a celebrity tandem race.

Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling

Avanti Long Bays Classic - 80k

Elite Men
1 Jack Bauer Takaka 1:54:18
2 Heath Blackgrove Waimate same time
3 Mathew Gorter Hamilton +1:12
4 Hamish Tomlinson Invercargill +1:13
5 James Williamson Alexandra same time
6 Tom Scully Invercargill +1:14
7 Roman van Uden Auckland same time
8 Brad Evans Dunedin same time
9 Sean Joyce Havelock Nth same time
10 Darcy Ellerm-Norton Christchurch +1:16

Elite Women
1 Cath Cheatley Wanganui 2:05:44
2 Laura Luxford Australia +2:59
3 Rachel Mercer Queenstown +4:50
4 Jeannie Kuhajek Nelson +6:20
5 Julia Grant Christchurch +6:21
6 Marina Duvnjak Auckland +8:37
7 Emily Collins Auckland +8:38
8 Josie Giddens Christchurch +8:39
9 Tracy Best Lower Hutt +8:41
10 Talisa Stanton Christchurch +8:41

Armstrong Motor Group Mountain Bike – 35k

Elite Men
1 Brendon Sharratt Wellington 1:14:42
2 Richard Anderson Blenheim +18secs
3 Anton Cooper Christchurch +2:44
4 Mark Leishman Rotorua +3:05
5 Logan Horn Christchurch +3:14
6 Oliver Whalley Christchurch +5:34
7 Kashi Leuchs Dunedin +5:57
8 Brad Tilby Auckland +9:08
9 Geoff Mirfin Christchurch +9:44
10 Jeremy Inglis Hanmer +14:54

Elite Women
1 Sara Taylor Christchurch 1:27:43
2 Nic Leary Rotorua +17secs
3 Jeanette Gerrie Christchurch +3:12
4 Cathy Hamer Hokitika +11:12
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Re: Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby psychavoc on Sat 5/Dec/09 9:47pm

Gosh Anton Cooper is bloody fast! :blink:
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Re: Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby tony_11 on Sat 5/Dec/09 9:53pm

Anton is a great kid with heaps of talent. He's up there mixing it with the best and is he's only 15 yrs old... :o
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Re: Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby davethemann on Sat 5/Dec/09 10:42pm

If anyone's interested I camped out at the top of Evans Pass and took a few photos.

I got bored eventually (cough, I mean "exhausted my creative opportunities") and headed down to the big hairpin. Then I went down a bit further to get pics of them going fast. Hmm, I might get a better view from down there. Ended up basically running all the way down Evans Pass with a few stops along the way to fill the camera's memory card some more. I must have looked like a complete idiot but it was good fun.

I split the pics into two galleries, otherwise it might take a bit long to load...


Will see if I can make it to watch the criterium tomorrow. It looks like my chances of actually riding a bike during the festival of cycling are close to zero :(

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Member for: 12 years 1 month

Re: Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby kneeman on Sun 6/Dec/09 7:00am

In the elite women mtb. Sara Tayler that is a great result you were not much more than 10 mins behind the top men and ahead of two members from the NZs Worlds team. Keep that up and you will have a good summer.
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Re: Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby davethemann on Sun 6/Dec/09 10:59pm

davethemann wrote:Will see if I can make it to watch the criterium tomorrow.

Here we go, I had trouble getting good spots due to the crowd but I managed to find a few places where I could squeeze in.

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Member for: 12 years 1 month

Re: Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby hpg on Tue 8/Dec/09 2:37pm

psychavoc wrote:Gosh Anton Cooper is bloody fast! :blink:

Ah ha, then he backed it up by winning the Hanmer Hammerhead the next day. The Hammerhead was a tough ride. 1200 odd meters and about 40kms. Good race.
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Re: Festival Of Cycling - Day 1 Report

Postby deathshead on Tue 8/Dec/09 5:53pm

Julia Grant from the Mico/All About Plumbing Team raced blood well against all the overseas based women!
Member for: 10 years 7 months

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