An emotional Shane Archbold of Deceuninck-QuickStep has won the elite men’s road race at the Vantage National Road Championships in Cambridge.  Archbold out-sprinted George Bennett who had been in the break solo all day, with Dylan Kennett taking third place.

Lachlan Robertson of Southland was the first to get the attacks underway in the 174km race that took in a couple of big outer laps before the five-lap town circuit.  The early pace was set by no one team with a coalition of a number of different outfits forming at the front of the bunch; while the World Tour riders kept themselves quiet for the time being.

Gradually George Bennett began to show his intent to attack the race early on for Jumbo-Visma.  Similar to the women’s race, early moves found themselves restricted well but the intensity was on from early on with the bunch strung out nicely inside the first hour of racing.  It was only a matter of time though before the first attacks went clear and George Bennett quickly asserted himself at the front of the race along with Jumbo-Visma Academy rider Finn Fisher-Black.  In the end the rider notorious for his climbing ability took off and had just one rider for company in the form of GD Pringle p/b Spoken Cycles’ Michael Torckler; making the most of racing in his backyard.

George Bennett spent the huge majority of the day out in front solo, eventually taking a heartbreaking silver, photo Ed Wright / RoadCycling.co.nz

Behind them a reduced peloton featuring Black Spoke Pro Cycling and Mitchelton-SCOTT spearheaded the chase effort but the gap was a reasonably significant one as Torckler and Bennett headed for French Pass.  A slender gap opened up on the climb between the two leaders, with Torckler briefly looking in difficulty, but the local lad was able to come back on board and together the leaders continued to make their way forward with about 70km left to race; including 6 laps of the finishing circuit.

The time gap was in favour of Torckler and Bennett heading into Cambridge as the gap to the chasing group of about a dozen riders heading out to 3 minutes.  That lead continued to stretch as the finish line approached for the first of six laps of the finishing circuit.  At the first time through the lead for Bennett and Torckler had extended to an impressive 3.50mins with Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy leading the chase effort with a group of four riders dictating the pace.  James Oram led the way through the finish line for the first time, with Hayden McCormick, Luke Mudgway and Aaron Gate trailing.  

Finn Fisher-Black at this point had played a brilliant hand, simply policing matters in the chase, while Dylan Kennett of St George Continental Cycling Team, Dion Smith of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Logan Griffin of Cabjaks-Castelli, Connor Brown of NTT Continental and Shane Archbold of Deceuninck-QuickStep all showed themselves in the chase.  Further back a group including Sam Bewley of Mitchelton-SCOTT, NTT Continental’s Drew Christensen, EuroCycling Tips’ Boris Clark and local favourite Alex Heaney were chasing a bit further back.

Together Torckler and Bennett fought on but the kilometres finally told for Torckler as the duo came towards five laps to go.  Unexpectedly Torckler’s legs just gave up and the Jumbo-Visma climber was left to do the time trial of his life for 50km.  Black Spoke’s chase effort was beginning to look like it might be paying dividends, though, as they led the first chase group through with the time gap down to 3 minutes.  With 50km to go and the gap coming down rapidly the maths was favouring the chasers; while the approach of Shane Archbold sitting on the back of that group and allowing Black Spoke to work looked like it might prove a big threat later on.

Black Spoke Pro Cycling Academy lead the chase, photo Ed Wright / RoadCycling.co.nz

However, a spanner was thrown into the works when Black Spoke suddenly decided to sit up and not contribute any longer.  Motivation suddenly seemed to drop in terms of setting the pace, forcing Dylan Kennett, Shane Archbold and Dion Smith to take on the responsibility of chasing.  Hayden McCormick remained forward in the chase but Black Spoke now demanded cooperation.  Eventually Black Spoke did come through again to take control, but as they went through the start/finish line once again the gap was still sitting at 3.26mins and Bennett remained in strong shape.  The first chase group had caught Michael Torckler but still needed a bit more buy in from the other teams to make serious inroads on the lead of the time trial silver medallist from two days prior.

Next time through the finish line the gap had come down fairly significantly to 2.50mins, but the message was progressively clearer that the chase group had to go full gas to catch the renowned climber who simply wasn’t letting up.  As two laps to go approached Bennett came through with 2.25mins in hand over the chasers and just 18km remaining.  The penultimate lap saw Bennett show the first signs of serious fatigue.  He stood up out of the saddle and began to look uncomfortable, as Dion Smith launched an attack that triggered a response from Shane Archbold, Dylan Kennett and Aaron Gate.  Smith couldn’t hold pace with the response and dropped back, leaving Archbold, Kennett and Gate to push on; but then Archbold made his move.

As Bennett hit the bell lap he did so with just a minute in hand over Archbold who went into time trial mode on his own, dropping Kennett and Gate who were forced to work together with Dion Smith in no man’s land between them and the next chasers.  The gap closed to 50 seconds with less than 8km to go and now Bennett was holding on for dear life.

Steadily Archbold closed in on Bennett who was surely knowing that he had nothing left in the tank; and finally the catch was made with just 2-3km remaining.  Archbold could be confident in his sprint and he had good reason to be as he led through the final corner and sprinted for home; clear of a brave but disappointed George Bennett.  Behind them Dylan Kennett managed to get the better of Aaron Gate and take third place with Ollie Jones taking fifth place ahead of Dion Smith and Logan Griffin.  In the chase group behind Finn Fisher-Black salvaged a national jersey for Jumbo-Visma, taking the U23 title.

Shane Archbold celebrates his first national road title victory, photo Dave Morrison – Elko Media

Results:

Pos.RiderCategoryTeamTime
1Shane ArchboldEliteDeceuninck-QuickStep4.14.42
2George BennettEliteTeam Jumbo-Visma+0.02
3Dylan KennettEliteSt George Continental Cycling Team+0.55
4Aaron GateEliteBlack Spoke Pro Cycling Academy+0.56
5Ollie JonesEliteCanterbury+1.04
6Dion SmithEliteMitchelton-SCOTT+1.07
7Logan GriffinEliteCabjaks-Castelli+1.10
8Hayden McCormickEliteBlack Spoke Pro Cycling Academy+1.43
9Luke MudgwayEliteBlack Spoke Pro Cycling Academy+1.45
10Finn Fisher-BlackU23Jumbo-Visma Academy+2.53
11Connor BrownU23NTT Continental Cycling TeamST
12Andrew BidwellU23Team Skoda FruzioST
13Josh LaneU23GD Pringle p/b Spoken Cycles+2.58
14Reuben ThompsonU23Team Skoda Fruzio+7.49
15Alex HeaneyEliteSt George Continental Cycling Team+7.50
16Campbell PithieU23CanterburyST
17Josh KenchU23Black Spoke Pro Cycling AcademyST
18Jason ChristieEliteTasman+7.56
19Keegan HornblowU23Team Skoda Fruzio+8.06
20Drew ChristensenU23NTT Continental Cycling Team+8.07
21Matias FitzwaterU23Waikato Bay of PlentyST
22Ben HamiltonU23Cabjaks-CastelliST
23Jake MarryattEliteCanterbury+8.08
24Ari ScottU23Black Spoke Pro Cycling AcademyST
25Hayden WildeEliteTeam Skoda Fruzio+8.16
26Sam BewleyEliteMitchelton-SCOTT+8.17
27Joseph SwaleU23Cycling Southland+8.33
28Michael TorcklerEliteGD Pringle p/b Spoken Cycles+8.48
29James OramEliteBlack Spoke Pro Cycling Academy+13.51

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