Robert Stannard showed a solid display of strength to win the second edition of the Gravel & Tar Classic.  Stannard took the win ahead of Alex West of Team Skoda Racing who mirrored his result from last year, and Glenn Haden who secured third place.

Going into the Gravel & Tar Classic 2017 Robert Stannard was wary of putting too much expectation on his shoulders this time around.  The race is one where luck has much more of a say in a rider’s success than others.  “I wasn’t expecting too much really, you can’t get you’re hopes up too much with the risk of getting a flat or a mechanical being so high,” Robert told RoadCycling.


Stannard – all on from the gun


The race was on from very early on, with the first sprint prime being hotly contested within the first 25km of racing.  That first prime went the way of Dylan Newberry of Mobius Future Racing ahead of Ryan Christensen and Luke Mudgway.  Adding to the dramatic start to the day was the wind factor that played a part early on.  In fact in the early stages Robert was one of the main protagonists to the aggressive start.  “It’s all on from the gun. I was solo through the first gravel section and up the gravel climb to minimise the risks of riding in a big bunch in gravel, it is worth a lot to be able to see where you are going.”

Around the top of the climb Stannard was joined by a group of 15 riders, but his intent and ability was clear.  At the second sprint prime of the day Robert Stannard took the plaudits ahead of Luke Mudgway and Alex West.  But any thought that Stannard might have had that he’d be able to conserve a bit of energy and recover were quickly put to bed by an attack by last year’s runner-up Alex West.  “I was caught at the top of the climb by a bunch of around 15, although momentarily, because Alex attacked straight away onto the most technical section of gravel and I jumped on his wheel, and that was the break,” Robert said. 

Glenn Haden did well to make it a breakaway group of 3 riders and for 20km it looked like they would be staying together; but sadly the course played a cruel hand to Haden as he punctured after 20km together.  West’s pace on the gravel sections was impressive.  “Alex was really quick on the gravel around the corners etc so we formed a 3 min break by the end of the 15km gravel section. We worked to the finish and I got him in the sprint.”


West – fully committing with team goals in mind


West had high praise for the way that he and Stannard functioned in the latter stages of the race, with the allure of potential team honours also being attractive as far as West was concerned.  “Robert and I worked extremely well together, just fully committing to make sure we got the maximum time gap possible as this was important to my team’s chance at the overall teams prize and therefore there was no cat and mousing until the very end. I think we both knew he would have the edge over me in the sprint,” he said.

For West, taking second place was a good result against a field that in his opinion had even more muscle to it.  “I’m really happy with the result, I think the field this year was a lot stronger than last year and I knew coming into the race that Robert would be the clear favourite,” Alex told us.  “I wanted to win obviously but coming into the race I thought if I was 2nd to Robert then that would be a pretty good day out.”

Having ridden to second last year, it was interesting to note whether West would employ a very different tactic this time around, especially working under the umbrella of Team Skoda Racing.  But not so, in fact, if anything West was free to be just a little more aggressive.  “I rode the race fairly similarly to last year, the only difference being I tried to go for some of the sprint primes for some extra prize money and then really get set for the 2nd gravel section which I knew I would be strong on and make my move,” he said.  “I effectively made the move at the same stage of the race as last year and ended up with one companion to the line [in Robert].”



Tilby – team really targeted this race


In the team standing Team Skoda Racing ran away with a comprehensive win, thanks in no small part to the fact that both Alex West and Jack Compton finished in the top sixth.  The team classification was recorded on the timing of the fourth rider in the team across the line though, and Brad Tilby and James Denholm crossed the line 14th and 15th respectively to secure the win for Team Skoda Racing by almost 7 minutes from Mobius Future Racing; with Oliver’s Real Food Racing fresh from their high at the New Zealand Cycle Classic in third place.

Brad Tilby spoke to us afterwards and expressed his delight at Team Skoda Racing having taken the team classification.  They did go the long way around in order to do it.  “Our plan for the race was to back 3 riders and pull a 4th person through for the teams classification. We were hit with bad luck early in the week with Ethan Batt breaking his elbow at the NZCC but did a quick call in to Jack Compton to guest ride for the day,” Brad explained.  “On the day, Alex, Jack and Chris were our protected riders, while myself and James would see what we could do.  We learnt from last year you can’t back one person and you need to really look at your equipment and make sure you have the best to do the best.”

“It was pretty touch and go in the end.  We placed 4 riders in the top 15 but that counts for nothing if the time gaps are vast.  Luckily for us, we scraped home with a win by 7 minutes in the teams,” Brad added.  “The Gravel and Tar was a race we really wanted to target due its unique profile and being the hometown of a number of our riders.  Steve Stannard has done a great job to pull together a truly epic race and the prize money was the icing on the top.”


Pos. Rider Team Time


Robert Stannard Independent 2.42.13


Alex West Team Skoda Racing +0.02


Glenn Haden Bike Box +1.15


Logan Griffin Oliver’s Real Food Racing +2.44


Ryan Christensen Oliver’s Real Food Racing ST


Jack Compton Team Skoda Racing +2.46


Sam Burston Mobius Future Racing ST


Sam Horgan Wheelworks +2.47


Dylan Newberry Mobius Future Racing ST


Aden Reynolds Mobius Future Racing ST



Team results:
Pos. Team Time


Team Skoda Racing 11.10.28


Mobius Future Racing +6.51


Oliver’s Real Food Racing +7.57


Bike Manawatu +35.32


Cyclista +38.01


Bike Box +38.26


Photo:  Kirsty Kaihau


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