Two stages into a very significant Mersey Valley Tour and the results for Robert Stannard couldn’t be better. Two wins to his name is a perfect way to hit the weekend, and afterwards he gave RoadCycling some feedback on what has been a dream two days in Tasmania.
RC: First of all two stages in and two stages to your name. You mentioned that heading over to Australia and performing there would be one of your goals earlier this season and that’s certainly coming to fruition. How are you feeling so far two days into the Mersey Valley Tour?
Robert: I am very happy with how I have been performing. This being one of the Australian worlds selection races I came here to test myself against other riders in my category, it is good to get racing experience against different riders because everyone races differently. It’s also good over here to get exposure in the Aussie racing scene. I am still looking at doing some NRS racing over here later in the year, because it would be good experience and race prep for world champs which is one of my major goals for this year.
I am feeling a little less fresh than my previous races in NZ, but I feel like I have more speed after coming off a few races which is good. I am having a few weeks off after this. The courses over here are brutal, more testing than any U19 race in NZ. This really brings out the strongest riders and it’s clear to see why it’s a selection for the world champs race.
I’m very happy to beat James in the TT, as he can usually beat me! The TT course was a beautiful waterfront course, along the coast between two towns, it was a quick course too and very flowing, it actually made it quite enjoyable apart from the rain.
RC: Tell us a bit about the course you were up against today and the conditions out there in Tasmania.
Robert: There are endless hills and some of them are horrifyingly steep, the guys with compact gears have a sure benefit. Today was 75km, with Guns Plains hill climb being the centre point of the stage. James crashed on the 5km descent before the climb, which ruined our plans of a 1-2 finish because he had to pull out. Hopefully he can get a result for Mobius in tomorrows stage.
RC: How strong is the team dynamic in the Mersey Valley Tour or is it more individualised?
Robert: There are teams, but the teams are not as focused as the NRS or NZ teams series because there isn’t any teams classification, also this is individual selection for worlds. James and I can race as a team as we aren’t Australian, although we only have a team of two.
RC: You were part of a two man breakaway that made it to the end but how did the stage actually pan out?
Robert: Today we were making it hard from the start, knowing that most of the riders would conserve themselves for the Gunns Plains climb and then the windy and hilly 15 remaining kilometres to the finish, therefore we wanted the riders as taxed as possible, and we certainly achieved that with the bunch strung out chasing our counter attacks even before the mid point of the race.
It was foggy and wet through amazing forests and roads, consequently there were many crashes throughout the stage, unfortunately James being one of the casualties. In the end the hill did become the make or break point of the race, with a break from the bottom with about 15 whittling down to maybe 7 or 8, then Sebastian and I rolling off the front. The final 15km could arguably be the most brutal part of the race, with no descent off the climb, just steep rollers and box headwind. Sebastian had attacked off the front to get the KOM, but I chased back on and we worked together actually increasing the gap between us and the second bunch and I won the sprint.
Photo: Eugene Bonthuys