The day dawned overcast and warm for Event 2 of the PNP PAKn’SAVE Summer Series, the Martinborough – Ngawi Classic. Over 90 riders lined up across both the Medio and Grand Fondo’s to contest a challenging course that would run all the way to the sleepy fishing village of Ngawi on Wairarapa’s east coast before finishing back at the Village Café in Martinborough.
The 60km Medio Fondo rolled out of town along Lake Ferry Road with the juniors massing near the front full of promise in their Scots College kit. The older heads quickly took over however with Steve Chapman and then Jason Gestro taking a few early testers off the front to measure the appetite for the chase. Gestro was particularly persistent and after 5km he and Andrew Eales established a small gap but the peloton was keeping them on a short rein and pulled them back into the fold after a few kms.
About 10km from the turn around, on the false flat approach to Pirinoa, Eales and Gestro tried again and this time Chapman jumped across to join them and a break was established and held a small 20 second advantage until the foot of the climb when the hammer went down back in the chase. Josh Turnbull of Next GEN Racing was first to connect to the break and brought with him a small group of five riders, mostly juniors. The rest of the peloton were scrambling behind.
Turning left onto Cape Palliser Road, Turnbull set the pace on the climb and led around the turn and then it was full throttle on the descent with Freddie Dossor (Scots College) and Patrick Drysdale (Meo GP) taking strong turns. It was a small front group of 12 that swung right at the bottom of the hill back onto Lake Ferry Road including five of the juniors and Eales, Gestro and Chapman from the earlier break. What was left of the peloton were strung out behind but a small group including sprinters Mark Coburn and Greg Cundy managed to get themselves organised and worked together eventually able to reconnect to the front of the race when the pace eased off.
A second bunch of 12 slowly formed behind containing U19 rivals Zoe Perry (Rivet Racing) and Bridget Olphert. The drop in intensity in the front group was the signal for a new breakaway attempt, this time by James Mahuta-Coyle and Jaycee Masalunga who held a small gap that grew to about 30 seconds until
they too were brought back by the chase after 5km.
It was 5km to go when the lead group had accepted the fact that the race would be decided by a bunch sprint and the attacks stopped. From here Gestro moved to the front and established a solid pace with the group following wheels behind. At 500m to go it was no surprise to see the juniors float near the front with old heads Coburn and Cundy in attendance. In the end youth won out with Freddie Dosser taking a clear win from Richard Henderson and Joshua Turnbull.
In the second group Oliver Layug took out the sprint from Jason McCarron and Erwin Kerbus. In the same group Perry and Olphert lined up for a 2up sprint to contest the women’s race. It was hotly contested with Perry prevailing by a tyre width. Karin Van Der Walt rounded out the women’s podium coming in in third.
45 riders rolled out of Martinborough into a mild southerly for the 120km Grand Fondo. After a few early flourishes Antony Nalder and Brendan Clarke followed an attack by Luke McDermott and the trio quickly put some distance on a reticent field, seemingly content to let the tough 120km course take its
toll. Set free and soon out of sight, Nalder and McDermott were not mucking around and set a hard tempo on the rollers towards Pirinoa that saw Clarke drop back to the main group.
There must have been a sense of deja vu for Nalder who had found himself solo off the front for 90km in the previous year’s edition only to be pulled back by the chase before the finish. But with a strong ally in McDermott this time round the pair continued to work well as the race moved across the spectacular
coastal landscape towards Ngawi.
By the turnaround the race was split into multiple groups with the leaders holding a two minute gap to a reduced chasing bunch containing some of the Wellington region’s stronger club riders. The view from the lead car was getting repetitive with Nalder and McDermott rolling solid turns at the front but as the
kilometres went by McDermott began showing signs of fatigue and he finally sat up shortly before the main obstacle of the day – the steep 5 minute climb from the coast to the rolling country above. Nalder continued to look untroubled, holding his shape and a high cadence but the chasing group now had him in their sights on the longer straights.
However, in his favour was a slight cross/tailwind and two teammates sitting in the chasing group which with 10km to go had boiled down to Jim Ashley, Matt Webb-Smith, Tristan Thomas, Callum Kennedy, David Rowlands and Wouter Peters.
At the 5km to go sign Nalder was finally showing signs of fatigue with a grimace forming on his face but he maintained a high average speed and as the race entered the last kilometre it was apparent the bunch were not making enough ground and Nalder had enough time to raise his arms and celebrate a
richly deserved win. Rowlands took the bunch sprint for second with Webb-Smith rounding out the podium.
Special mention must go Kristine Ford (first women), David Finlay and Iain McDonald who all battled bravely on a tough course. It was great to see them all smiling as they rehydrated afterwards at the Village Café.
In the teams competition Meo GP continues to lead on 258 point with the Onslow Tarbabies closing the gap (238 points) and Scots College not far behind in third (155 points).
The next event is the iconic Rice Mountain Classic on 9 March 2019. If you were planning to do an event in the series, this is the one to do. With a history stretching to 1994 this event traverses several of the Wairarapa’s well known climbs before finishing atop Admirals Hill where an ice cold coke awaits you.
Registration is at the Gladstone Sports Complex from 8.30 to 9.30am. Hope to see you there.