Ryan Christensen of Crediflex Pro4mance won the electric finale that was the uphill battle to conclude round 4 of the Dynamo Team Championship in Onewhero. In an extremely testing final 6km Christensen won out after a brave day’s breakaway just ahead of a rampaging Michael Torckler of Blindz Direct with Cameron Wynniatt in third place.
The fourth round of the Team Championship, the Grassroots Trust Onewhero Classic, tok place under ideal cycling conditions with riders ready for a testing and challenging course that would hold all comers to account with little in way of hiding places on what was to be a very testing day out on the road. Overall series leader Michael Torckler went into the 102.6km race with just a 2 point lead from Luke Mudgway and James Oram who were tied on 18 points each. In the team classification Spoken Coaching had the lead though with 50 points to Team Skoda Racing’s 48 and Blindz Direct’s 44.
After a very quick but safely navigated downhill neutral zone racing got underway with two riders quickly signalling their intent to make the most of the day from the start. The riders from Spoken Coaching and Revolution Cycling 100% sparked a chain of moves that went in quick succession. Nothing was given immediate daylight though and with the speed in the peloton hitting 50kph on the flat in places a move was a little reluctant in establishing until finally a group of eight riders broke clear.
Several teams were represented in the move including Blindz Direct and Spoken Coaching, but Team Skoda Racing had missed the boat initially and reacted strongly as a result in conjunction with Crediflex Pro4mance in a small chase group that went off in pursuit with just 12km covered. Also missing the boat was Michael Torckler in the series leader’s jersey who was part of a remaining peloton that was now stretched out pretty well in an effort to try and keep control of matters. They were now 24 seconds behind the breakaway, with the chase group containing Oram 17 seconds behind the leaders with 15km covered.
Urgency from the peloton was sparked though and as the riders reached the 16km mark the chase group had been reeled in; and as the first significant rise occurred the breakaway also found itself under pressure. The first climb ultimately saw a number of riders finding the going too tough and falling back while up ahead the break continued to work together for the most part stretching their lead a little further up to 30 seconds with 18.4km covered. They’d lost numbers though with just a handful of riders remained in the group after the climb, Logan Griffin of Spoken Coaching, Oliver Young of CCN Factory Racing, Ryan Christensen of Crediflex Pro4mance, Cameron Wynniatt of Blindz Direct and Daniel Johnston of Rotorua Racing were all there.
Back in the peloton the numbers continued to dwindle with a large number of riders continuing to find the going tough under the number of accelerations at the front of the bunch. The sporadic pace was not to the liking of a number of them and it looked like before long the peloton might compound altogether into a series of small groups. But then suddenly it appeared as if the impetus had gone out of the chase efforts in the peloton to a certain extent. Oram, Mudgway and Torckler, the top three in the series, were all there; and it looked like the bunch might be content with that.
That was reflected in the time gap which had gone out to a healthy 2.05mins at 33.5km. At the end of the first lap the peloton were looking very settled cruising at a little over 40kph as the gap continued to grow out to over 2.30mins. At the 45km mark the pace lifted again, with a small of riders going away. They had plenty of ground to make up though and on the arrival at the second loop, the gap had gone out further while chase group behind the peloton found themselves over 4 minutes in arrears. The climb on lap two fragmented the peloton still further though until eventually a group of 11 found itself in pursuit of the break with Torckler and Oram in attendance. They’d managed to take 25 seconds out of the break by the time the race reached 57km so it would be interesting to see whether the break would go or whether the bunch would rally to bring them back.
The group behind the Torckler chasers were also making ground on the 11 ahead and as they approached 62km it looked like the catch would be made which would add a bit more firepower to the chase effort. At 65km the catch was made between the two chase groups, giving Team Skoda Racing four riders in the chase group, while Tank Guy/Bikebox and Spoken Coaching had three and Blindz Direct had two. The gap, however, had stabilised at 2.10mins and something needed to be done.
Michael Torckler was next to instigate a move from the chase group, attacking in the company of James Oram and four other riders. With Team Skoda Racing well represented in the group the impetus was somewhat taken out of the chase effort by the Team Skoda Racing riders behind who didn’t need to lend their support to catching the group of six.
At 71km the road took on a new circuit which commenced with a sharp climb. The six chasers continued in pursuit although the climb would proceed to shake Alex West off of their wheels. With Torckler leading the way up the climb the gap dropped to 1.30mins, with Oram, Steve Furminger of 4 Zero p/b Solo CC, Frank Sutton of Crediflex Pro4mance and Josh Lane of Spoken Coaching all there. With 31km still remaining of the race it had to be said at this stage that it was advantage chasers; although the leaders were still pulling through and sharing the load at the head of the race. At 75km the chasers picked up Daniel Johnston who had come back from the breakaway. Johnston managed to jump on board the tail end of the chasers; meaning it was 4 vs 6.
With 26km to go the time gap had come down a bit further to 1.17mins and the chasers weren’t messing about, continuing to press on with Oram leading the way at 77km. At this stage everyone was prepared to share the workload, while up ahead the leading group was up for a change. Ryan Christensen and Cameron Wynniatt had dropped Logan Griffin and Oliver Young from the breakaway group and were holding on to what little advantage they had. Their lead was dropping though to 1.07mins with 22km to go with the Griffin duo 10 seconds back.
The trailing pair were losing ground and it was surely only a question of time before they came within the sights of the chase group as they fell to 23 seconds behind Christensen and Wynniatt. At 17km to go the gap had gone out a little more to 1.30mins to the chasing duo who were now in the sights of the chasing six riders. The Torckler group closed to 1.22mins with 15km to go and at 88km caught Logan Griffin and Oliver Young. Shortly after that Torckler and Oram tried to accelerate again but at 89km to go it looked like maybe Christensen and Wynniatt had done enough as the momentum seemed to be lacking just a little bit all of a sudden.
With 10km to go the chase group began to play games and that ultimately seemed to play into the hands of Torckler who attacked and was unquestionably the most naturally talent climber and therefore best suited to the final 6km which featured a nasty rise in the road. Torckler led the group onto the last big climb to home with just about 5 seconds in hand on the rest of the group; but could he catch the leaders?
Griffin and Furminger were quickly dropped after Johnston had been dropped just before the climb. Young and Sutton were next to be dropped and that left just Josh Lane and Oram in pursuit of Torckler who was in his element and looking to really make up ground. As the climb neared its completion Torckler caught Wynniatt but Christensen had taken off and with 4km to go 34 seconds in hand. Oram and Lane were unable to reel in Torckler, who was a man on a mission in pursuit of the now lone leader in Christensen.
It proved an electric finish with victory very unpredictable until the final metres of what was a very tricky finale to round 4 the series. Christensen, who’d been in the breakaway the whole day finally won out by just a handful of seconds from a charging Torckler who picked up second place and extended his lead in the series. Behind them Cameron Wynniatt managed to edge out Oram and Lane for third place. Crediflex Pro4mance emerged victorious in the team classification.