Hayden McCormick and Shane Archbold have placed fifth and sixth in the men’s road race at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Steele von Hoff completed an Australian double in the men’s and women’s road races, taking the win ahead of Welsh rider Jonathan Mould and South Africa’s Clint Hendricks.
The men’s road race took in 9 laps of the 18.7km circuit for a total of 168km, with New Zealand fielding a team of Jason Christie, Hayden McCormick, Shane Archbold, Jack Bauer, James Oram and Sam Gaze. The course was not exceptionally challenging but it did feature two short climbs that tested the women’s race and would inevitably do the same for the men.
Attacks began virtually immediately, with there being no neutral zone. In fact, the first lap was fraught with aggression from all sides, with New Zealand looking to infiltrate the early moves. James Oram, Hayden McCormick, Jason Christie and Sam Gaze could all be seen trying to make it into the early breakaway moves and get established.
Along with the aggression came a number of crashes. Several riders toppled and had to chase back on, with an alarming crash coming the way of Jason Christie. What exactly happened was hard to make out, but the national road champion sustained nasty facial injuries and was on the ground for a little while before remounting. The trouble didn’t stop there as he then had to stop to attend to a mechanical issue before finally being able to focus on chasing back on to the front of the race. But he managed, and despite the facial injuries sustained he was able to not just rejoin the race; but also play a significant role as the race progressed.
Steadily the race began to take shape and a breakaway of three riders formed at the front of the race. In the move were Thomas Stewart of England, James McLaughlin of Guernsey and Joseph Areruya of Rwanda. Meanwhile behind them a chase group formed featuring the New Zealand National road race champion. Jason Christie made his way into the break alongside Mitchell Docker of Australia, Harry Tanfield of England, Tobyn Horton of Guernsey, Salim Kipkemboi of Kenya, Brendon Davids of South Africa and Dylan Kerfoot-Robson of Wales.
While these two groups established themselves out in front, the peloton were led by Australia, with Sam Gaze, Hayden McCormick, Jack Bauer, James Oram and Shane Archbold safely tucked away in the bunch. With a little under 75km to go the gap from the chase group to the breakaway sat at 1.05mins, with the peloton at 3.45mins.
That gap from the chasers to the leaders continued to drop to 36 seconds at 64km and after 112.2km of racing and with just three laps to go Christie was sitting just 10 seconds back; and finally the catch was made with 55km to go. But the pack were also closing, and had gotten to within 56 seconds with three laps to go; Australia still leading the charge.
From there the gap proceeded to hold at just under the minute mark. Back in the peloton New Zealand remained close to the head of the pack. Hayden McCormick and Jack Bauer were paying close attention to the goings on at the front of the peloton, sitting just behind the Australians leading the charge. With 38km to go the gap had gone down to just 40 seconds to the pack.
As the kilometres ticked away Thomas Stewart and James McLaughlin went on the attack from the swollen breakaway group; prolonging their stay out front quite handsomely. They held a 1.04min lead with 31.5km to go, with the rest of the break about to be swept up. As the remnants of the break were brought back Shane Archbold made an attack of his own from the peloton. He picked up a few riders from the break and went off in pursuit of Stewart and McLaughlin, although the gap was a matter of just a handful of seconds back to the Aussie-led peloton; or what was left of it. At 28km to go the group were 40 seconds behind but shortly afterwards Brendon Davids attacked that group and was joined by Mitch Docker.
The two riders did succeed in bridging cross to Stewart and McLaughlin and en route to the bell for one lap to go it looked like they might survive the impending catch that would surely be made. All the while New Zealand were perfectly positioned and with 20km to go James Oram sat third wheel in the bunch, with Jack Bauer on his wheel.
Approaching the bell Thomas Stewart made a last ditch attack and took the bell solo with McLaughlin still digging deep to try and get on board. At 40 seconds came the peloton, with Oram, Bauer, McCormick, Archbold and Gaze all very present at the head of affairs. McLaughlin and Stewart reunited at the front but their days were numbered as the peloton motored along.
New Zealand took over the pace setting with 13km still to go, with James Oram drilling the field onto the climb. Oram peeled away and then it was Gaze’s turn to strike. They mopped up the two leaders as the field neared the top of the climb and from there the mountain bike gold medallist continued to drill the field on the front with Jack Bauer and Hayden McCormick in tow. The surge from New Zealand had forced the issue with a major split occurring that saw just 11 riders – four of them Kiwis – make the front. Australia were still there in numbers though.
11.6km from the finish Jack Bauer launched a piercing attack, forcing Matthew Hayman to launch the chase. The Kiwis were poised in the bunch, but not about to contribute anything to chasing back their teammate. But at 10km to go Bauer’s move was swallowed by Cameron Meyer who attacked fiercely with Sam Gaze holding on behind him as well as Luke Rowe of Wales. James Oram also managed to come across and just like that four riders had a slender advantage. But the rest of the group came back and it remained game on to the finish.
Bauer now hit the front with Hayden McCormick on his wheel. They dragged the group along by the scruff of the neck but then hesitation in the group saw a number of brief but hopeful accelerations come and go. Jack Bauer attacked again with 6km to go but that came to naught, then Oram made a move to join Thomas Stewart; only for Cameron Meyer to counter attack.
This time the three riders had a threatening advantage that looked like it might go all the way. They went through 3km to go with a lead still there; but behind them the chasers weren’t done yet. Both Shane Archbold and Steele von Hoff made accelerations. They didn’t break clear, but they did bring everything back together just in time for the final couple of turns.
Into the finish James Oram looked like he was leading things out, but then Ian Bibby of England launched an acceleration and had Meyer on his shoulder; with Jon Mould of Wales third. In the melee for the finish Meyer eventually led out the sprint with Jon Mould looking like he might take the win. McCormick dug deep, but was being swamped by Mark Downey of Northern Ireland and Clint Hendricks of South Africa; with Shane Archbold just behind him.
In a throw to the line McCormick was muscled out of the bronze medal and had to settle for fifth, with Archbold sixth. Demonstrating the strength that New Zealand possessed, Sam Gaze finished 10th, with James Oram 11th, Jack Bauer 13th and Jason Christie 16th; but there would be no medal for New Zealand.