Analysis: brilliant opportunism and smart use of artillery

Brett Grieve dissects the Kiwi Style Bike Tours Timaru Classic men’s race that saw a surprise breakaway win for Ben Robertson of Modus Construct, denying the pre-race favourites including round 1 winner Tom Hubbard, Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston and several more.

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Ben Robertson celebrates after winning the Timaru Classic, photo Chris Sexton/Faction Photography

Brett Grieve dissects the Kiwi Style Bike Tours Timaru Classic men’s race that saw a surprise breakaway win for Ben Robertson of Modus Construct, denying the pre-race favourites including round 1 winner Tom Hubbard, Olympic medallist Hayden Roulston and several more.

The victory equation for Ben Robertson of Modus Construct was really quite simple on the hilly 148km Pleasant Point circuit.  A handy group of seven “tier two” riders managed to escape the peloton and had over a minute advantage before the first climb of significance 15km in.  The frenetic climbing tempo of the peloton wasn’t a threat to the move, and a late bridge by Reon Nolan (Total POS), Jacob Grieve (L&M), and Ethan Batt (PKF) resulted in a 10 man break with all the big teams represented.

The route consisted of three large laps, each with two climbs of significance, in-between numerous rolling hills.  Pleasant Point is a beautiful part of the country and the day was sunny and cool with light winds, ideal conditions for an enjoyable bike race.

Back at the front, the break rode steadily to amass a 5 min 30s advantage by the end of the first lap, and was able to maintain that through to the end of the second lap, in spite of the chase being commenced.  Late in the second lap, Ben Roberston (Modus), Hefin Price (Mike Greer) and Jordan Gilmour (Central Benchmakers-Willbike) attacked on the Gays Pass Road climb and left the depleted break in a quandary.  None were able to follow and while L&M’s Jacob Grieve and Tim Chapman were keen to chase the others were not.  Total POS, represented by Reon Nolan and Joe Hutchinson (U19) weren’t in a position to follow, as Reon was aiming to provide Joe with a potential U19 victory.  PKF were in a similar position with Simon Anderson protecting Ethan Batt (U19) and both younger riders struggling at that stage.  Long story short, Jordan dropped off, and Ben and Hefin rode the last lap by themselves, maintaining an advantage of nearly four minutes to claim the first two positions in a well-deserved victory.  This is a great result for both riders, making the most of the opportunity presented and riding with determination to stay clear from a star studded field.

The interesting part of the race was not just first and second though, rather it was how the major teams being Mike Greer Homes and Total POS used their heavy artillery to set the conditions for success.  The Mike Greer “hitters” included Sam Horgan, Tim Rush, and Hayden Roulston, with the remainder of the team filled with quality worker bees.  Total POS had the Round 1 winner Tom Hubbard and Scott Thomas from Data 3, Richard Lawson, and the ever dangerous Matt Zenovich from Avanti IsoWhey.  This combination of quality riders fundamentally changed the outlook of all other “tier two” riders, as it was inevitable that the acid would come on, the only question being when and how.

So, with all these hitters in the peloton and the break safely away the tempo died during lap 1.  Eventually Joyride Apparel commenced a chase of sorts, having missed out on the break, but wisely did not fully commit to that endeavour.  Mike Greer Homes took up the chase in earnest at the start of lap 2, increasing the pace significantly for the majority of that lap.  With the workers mostly exhausted and the time gap remaining at some 5 minutes, the chase paused at the start of the final lap.  This quickly turned into a new phase of chaotic attacking, led mostly by Total POS strongmen.

The peloton was woken from its slumber and forced to follow wheels for fear of splinter groups riding free behind the break.  The two climbs on the final lap were conducted at a particularly high pace with 15 man selections going clear over both, and continuing the attack once over.  Some determined riders were able to claw back on, however at this stage of the race the back of the peloton was disintegrating.  Attacks by Sam Horgan, Tim Rush, Hayden Roulston, Matt Zenovich, Scott Thomas and Tom Hubbard kept the pace exceptionally hard, with Sam eventually riding clear and being the first to capture the seven strong remnant of the break.  Total POS strongly countered this combination, bringing the whole race back together with about 15km to go.

A new calculation was formed with a peloton sprint finish for 3rd being inevitable.  The final km was straight forward except for a sharp left turn 600m from the line.  With PKF’s Simon Anderson dragging the peloton toward the corner at 45kph, Hayden Roulston, Tim Rush and Ben Johnstone (all Mike Greer Homes) executed a brilliant late attack from the back of the peloton.  The trio had a good gap around the corner resulting in Tim sprinting clear for 3rd and securing the Elite Men’s leaders jersey and Ben picking up 4th and the U23 leaders jersey.  That move, with no other riders able to respond, demonstrates the class of Roulston, and it was excellent to have a Pro Tour rider fully committing to team tactics here in New Zealand.

Back in the peloton the pace was hard coming out of the corner, with some riders seemly attempting to sprint the whole distance.  With 250m to go Hubbard demonstrated his class by launching forward, chased closely by Horgan.  Horgan prevailed, winning the peloton sprint and making the top five places a Mike Greer Homes affair, less 1st of course, and easily securing the leading team status from Total POS.

The final jersey up for grabs was the U19 series leader, previously won by Campbell Pithie (Total POS).  U19 line honours went to Hayden Strong from Central Benchmakers-Willbike in 10th but the jersey was secured by Ethan Batt of PKF.  Ethan sprinted for 13th after a long day in the break, and combined with points from Round 1, moves narrowly into the lead.

The Kiwi Style Bike Tours Timaru Classic proved to be a fantastic course, testing riders climbing and sprinting attributes along with being safe, thanks to good route selection and a dedicated team of commissaries, organisers and marshals.  The series will hibernate now until Nelson on the 20th of August.

 

By:  Brett Grieve

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