Alex West of Team Skoda Racing reversed a trend of second placed finishes to friend and rival Robert Stannard at this year’s Gentle Annie Bike Ride.  West and Stannard finished well clear of the rest of the field; which was led home by Sam Horgan who completed the podium.

The Gentle Annie Bike Ride is 136km in length and features no less than 2452m of climbing.  The steepest of the climbs along the ride – Gentle Annie – averages 10.9% gradient, while the longest of the climbs – the ascent of Ngamatea Station – goes on for 12.4km.  Needless to say a bunch sprint is not something that was expected to decide matters.  

RoadCycling spoke to Alex West after his win.  He told us, “The course itself is unrelenting with climbs that never seem to stop coming one after another and really saps the strength in the riders’ legs.  It’s a tough course mentally until the final 30km where it’s a gentle downwards slope till the finish.”

Riders got off to a very swift start, but the bunch remained together until the first major attack that featured West himself.  “I took the chance to sneak off the front with 4 other riders. Knowing from past experiences that going too hard early on would have severe consequences later on, I didn’t fully commit myself to move and held something in reserve,” West said.  “Once the chase group brought us back led by Robert [Stannard] and Sam Horgan, I went straight to the front with full commitment to put pressure on the riders who had chased.”

That decision to push the pace up saw four riders again go clear, with Alex West and Robert Stannard right in the mix.  Eventually it was just the two of them left on the front, but not before Robert had spent time on the front alone first.  “Once the 2 riders at the back couldn’t pull through, I let Robert slip off the front with a plan in mind. Once his gap was large enough, I attacked the other two riders and joined Robert up front through the first feed zone,” West said.  “From this point it was a 90km 2up time trial for me and Robert until the closing kilometres.”

Alex and Robert are training partners and friends, knowing each others strengths and they quickly became an effective combination as they powered away from the rest.  “Me and Robert worked really well, we know each other’s strengths and used this against the other riders and combined well,” West told us.  “Once we were off the front together, we took turns setting a tempo we knew each other would be comfortable with but would also not allow the chasers to bring us back.”

By the time West and Stannard reached the finish line they had a 2.20min advantage over the nearest challengers; Sam Horgan, Alex Heaney and Logan Griffin.  “Thinking I was probably going to lose the sprint, I attacked with 2km to go but to no avail.  It came down to a 2-up sprint and I knew my only chance was to kick first. I did this successfully and managed to hold on for the win.”

Sam Horgan took the sprint for third place with Logan Griffin and Alex Heaney completing the top five overall.  

For West though the victory over Stannard was certainly an extremely satisfying one, given the growing healthy rivalry that exists between them.  “It’s certainly a good feeling to get a win over Robert given the amount of times it’s gone the other way.  It’s great having a bit of a rivalry between someone who I’ve grown up training and racing with on my home roads of the Manawatu,” West revealed.  “I think the result is a testament to the training I have put in with my coach since having a slightly disappointing nationals and New Zealand Cycle Classic by my standards.”

Results:
Pos. Rider Time

1

Alex West 3.43.56

2

Robert Stannard ST

3

Sam Horgan +2.20

4

Logan Griffin ST

5

Alex Heaney +2.21

6

Josh Aldridge +5.42

7

David Rowlands +7.32

8

Shamus Christison ST

9

Scott McDonald +7.34

10

Mitchell Kinghorn +15.34

11

Chris Denholm +15.35

12

Josh Achten ST

13

Calvin Standrill +15.36

14

Luke McDermott +15.37

15

Ben Earnshaw +15.39

16

John Mudgway ST

17

Jack Caruthers +19.21

18

Steve Nicholls +22.06

19

Wouter Peeters +33.17

20

Joe Lee +33.37
Photo:  Don Kennedy

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