Josh Kench comes away from the Tour de l’Abitibi head held high as winner of stage 4 of the race in Notre-Dame-du-Nord.  It was a magnificent day for the Kiwi, building on the podium from Ethan Craine earlier in the week.  We got to chat to him about it.

Heading into stage 4 of the Tour de l’Abitibi – a race that’s historically been a staple for talented young New Zealand riders on the international circuit – Kench’s race was gradually building after a conservative start.  He sat 25th overall after the 10.1km individual time trial, but it was his performance in Notre-Dame-du-Nord – on the border between Ontario and Quebec – that would become the stand out performance of the 6-day race.

At first the day was closely controlled by two teams in conditions that made escaping up the road easier said than done.  “The start was a bit harder than usual with a cross headwind so no attacks happened and the main nations USA and France controlled the pace on the front,” Kench told RoadCycling. 

It took over half the stage before a breakaway managed to finally go up the road, but even then Josh wasn’t in it; with his move being a reactive one from the bunch rather than a proactive one with the initial break.  “At around 80km the attacks started to go as more hills came into play.  A group of 5 got up the road, more attacks followed after this and I tried to make one stick but it wasn’t quite working,” Kench explained.  “I went again at 40km to go and no one followed, and I just thought I’d give it my all.”

Kench’s comparatively late move proved an inspired decision as he ended up joining a move that was fading; and he had the smarts to take full advantage of the situation.  “I bridged the gap pretty quickly.  As I started to work with the breakaway I could tell their legs where tired and mine were strong, so I attacked at about 25km to go and held it to the line.”

By the time he reached the line Kench had put 23 seconds into the ever-fragmenting breakaway group that ended up crossing the line in ones and twos.  It was the best result in the Kiwi’s young career, taking a win in a Nation’s Cup event, and for Kench it shows not just his good form; but the progress being made by young New Zealanders. 

“It [feels] pretty awesome; it being a Nations Cup race, and the longest junior race.  To place on a stage is very special, and for me and Ethan to both podium on a stage I guess shows that NZ junior racing is upping its game also,” Josh told us. 

“With the likes of the NZ team in Europe at the moment doing so well, I think it gives us all a bit more confidence going into U23 next year; as well as for the junior riders who are coming into U19 back home.”

Photo: Vincent Drouin

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