Jayden Kuijpers of Team Skoda Fruzio crosses the line to win round 4 of the Grassroots Trust Team Championship, photo Ed Wright/RoadCycling.co.nz

Jayden Kuijpers of Team Skoda Fruzio held off a late charge from Logan Griffin of GD Pringles p/b Spoken Cycles to claim the win in round 4 of the Grassroots Trust Team Championship.  Kuijpers soloed to the victory, while Regan Gough’s third place saw him go level on points overall with Alex Heaney.

 

The Grassroots Trust Team Championship turned to round 4 and the hilly and challenging Onewhero Classic.  For categories 4,5 and women a 56.7km course awaited, for categories 2 & 3 it would be 79.2km and for category 1 a full 102.6km awaited.  But for everyone racing would conclude with an 8km uphill drag to the line.  

Clear skies greeted the riders and there was a moderate wind as riders rolled out of the start.  GD Pringle p/b Spoken Cycles’ Alex Heaney held the overall series lead in category 1 with Regan Gough of WBOP Performance Hub lying in second place at 5 points behind.  Third overall, Sam Gaze, was absent from the race; leaving plenty to play for among the field.  

 

Crediflex Cycling’s Ryan Christensen won here in 2017 and was lining up for another shot at victory having confirmed that he will be remaining with the Canyon Eisberg set up in 2019.  His race got off to an unfortunate start though as no sooner had the flag been pulled in to start the race than he’d been forced to pull over to the side of the road with a puncture.  He was quickly back up and on board with the race though as riders patiently bided their time before launching into attacks.

After 9.8km of racing the first attack went up the road with four riders taking a chance, but the atmosphere in the bunch was a little nervous and matters were quickly brought back to heel.  However, the fuse had been lit and a number of moves proceeded to launch in a bid to establish a lasting break.  12km into the race, though, and nothing had quite managed to go clear but the race had well and truly strung out on a long section of flat; it was only a matter of time before something would manage to go clear. 

16km into the race and everything was still together but the first decent climb loomed large.  Predictably the race strung out and the first cracks appeared in the bunch.  About half a dozen riders were quickly shaken off with a big split in the peloton seeing three decent sized groups form.  Alex Heaney was among those in the second group on the road; although things did progressively come back and with Team Skoda Fruzio and Tank Guy leading the charge in the last group at 20km the race was largely back together; although the intensity was really taking its toll with a combination of the gradual slope coupling with the windy conditions to really blitz a number of riders off the pace at the back.

After 21.5km of racing the main field had been whittled down to about 30 riders and still the first major attack was yet to go.  We were beginning to get the feeling that it would be more a case of last man standing than any one attack going away!  Eventually a group of four riders took off though, steadily pulling away from the remnants of the peloton on the gradual descent after 26km of racing.  One rider joined them and for the first time since the first attack it appeared that the peloton were happy to give their blessing to the move.  Two more riders – with Nick Kergozou at the front – also made an attempt to leap across the gap; as finally it looked like the race was settling.  But again the peloton were just not willing to let anything go and all was once again back together; strung out but back together.

Three riders were the next to try their luck up the road with Team Skoda Fruzio among those in the trio.  The gap, as they hit 34km covered, was out to 10 seconds – still a fragile lead – but beginning to look a little more promising as they hit the sweeping descents towards the end of the first lap.

Over the course of the next lap finally a move of two riders established, but not before a lot of animation from a number of different riders.  Ryan Christensen of Team Crediflex Cycling, Alex Heaney of GD Pringle Buildings p/b Spoken Cycles, Regan Gough and Campbell Stewart of WBOP Performance Hub all threw themselves into the action but in the end it was Xander White of GD Pringle Buildings p/b Spoken Cycles joining Team Skoda Fruzio’s Jayden Kuijpers at the head of the race.  The two took off and held a lead of 55 seconds with 57km covered.

Behind them Campbell Stewart, Regan Gough and Ryan Christensen were among those to try and bridge across but Kuijpers and White were gone.  They went up the final climb – to be navigated twice – with a lead that started at 1.20mins but went out to 2.05mins by the time they’d reached the finish line for the start of the final lap.  Gough’s efforts to get across to the leaders was dealt a blow when he was forced to pull over with a puncture at 85km; and although he was able to come back to the chase group it was a forlorn hope for the group who were still not denting the lead of White or Kuijpers.

It looked like the two riders would contest the finish, but on the lower slopes of the final climb White cracked; leaving Kuijpers to monitor his effort and push on solo.  Behind him there was plenty of action to try and catch White and potentially take second place, but in the end Logan Griffin launched out of the chase group to pursue Kuijpers.  Behind him the chase group continued on together; but there was no stopping Kuijpers who crossed the line for a well-earned victory.  Griffin caught a fading teammate in White and took second place on his own while behind him Regan Gough took the closely fought sprint for third place.  

The news got better for Team Skoda Fruzio as they took the team honours for the day. The result in the Onewhero Classic means that overall Alex Heaney and Regan Gough now find themselves level on points at the top of the individual leaderboard.  

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