As the sun sets on the 2019 Grassroots Trust New Zealand Cycle Classic and the month of January, we’ve had so much to remember across the opening 31 days of the year that signify some great things to come.
Patrick Bevin is in for great things
We can’t leave January without tipping our hat once more to the incredible performance in the Santos Tour Down Under from Patrick Bevin. The man’s a machine. Sure, we an only imagine what might have happened had he not crashed before the grand finale on Willunga Hill, but to see the Kiwi take his first UCI World Tour win as an individual on stage 2, after cunningly tallying up the bonus seconds the day before; then utilising his strengths and limiting his weaknesses against the slighter, purer climbers on the road to Campbelltown; victory in the points classification was the last he deserved! With the national title once more under his belt we’re looking forward to seeing the fern on display at the highest level once again and pressing for that first TT World Tour triumph next!
Mike Greer Homes Women’s Racing are rocking
When we spoke to Patrick Harvey towards the end of last year about the evolution of Mike Greer Homes Women’s Racing the overwhelming sense was that the team was really heading into the unknown with an almost entirely new look outfit. And with Christmas coming up there was no real way of gauging how the team would perform until we saw them at the Vantage Elite Road National Championships. There any uncertainty was kicked to the kerb, as they lit up the time trial and road race; taking a clean sweep in the U23 time trial courtesy of Jenna Merrick, Georgia Christie and Libby Arbuckle. Christie then put in the ride of her life to be crowned road race champion, finishing clear of elites and U23s alike to claim the fern ahead of new signing for the team Deborah Paine. Merrick then took her strength to Palmerston North where she finished second in the inaugural Gravel and Tar La Femme behind Brodie Chapman, while teammate and race captain Rylee McMullen sprinted to third. They’re a team on a mission and no mistake.
EvoPro can do no wrong!
The elephant in the room after SRAM Tour de Ranges, the Hub Tour, and most significantly Gravel and Tar and the New Zealand Cycle Classic is that EvoPro Racing have been unable to put a foot wrong so far. Before the UCI road season kicked off the signs were there. Aaron Gate’s third consecutive win at SRAM Tour de Ranges, Luke Mudgway’s victory and clean sweep of the jerseys at the Hub Tour, Gate’s Madison victory at the Cambridge round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup. All the signs were there that January could be something special for the team and so it turned out. Gravel and Tar saw lady luck smile on Luke Mudgway, but his win is as much testament to the spade work of his teammates like Daniel Whitehouse in the early stages and Cyrus Monk who took third; as it is about his ability to avoid punctures and mechanicals. Besides Gate and Mudgway, between Cyrus Monk, Shane Archbold, Wouter Wippert in every UCI day of racing in New Zealand EvoPro Racing never failed to have any less than one man in the top three.
Gravel and Triumph
We won’t forget this year’s Gravel and Tar in a hurry. The race took a different tack this year, starting in Feilding before the traditional finish in Palmerston North. The different start also opened up a new course – at least for the first 60% of the race – and it proved a winner. The inaugural Gravel and Tar La Femme was a triumph, and we still can’t count the number of times we heard riders saying how much fun they had racing on some of New Zealand’s most unforgiving surfaces. It’s a race that lived up to its billing as arguably the hardest in the Southern Hemisphere; and to say we’re excited about 2020 is an understatement!
New Zealand Cycle Classic takes off in Waipa
It’s with fondness that we’ll remember the first edition of the New Zealand Cycle Classic being held in the Waipa region. It certainly brought in a new dynamic to the race, an unpredictability, plenty of entertainment; and an unforgettable Battle Royale up Maungakawa Hill. The spectacle was at its peak for us on Maungakawa where we took our place amongst the fans and followers on the slopes of the race’s toughest climb to welcome the field not once but twice. First time up it was Michael Torckler looking like he was going to do what we’re so familiar with when the roads go up. Second time though Aaron Gate and Jay Vine looked like they were going to take the win but for Jesse Featonby to come through. The crowds cheered and cow-belled them all on from first to last; giving local favourite Alex Heaney and his GD Pringle/Spoken Cycles teammates the most rousing applause as they came home.
The Waipa region is known as the Home of Champions, and the New Zealand Cycle Classic has certainly found a welcome host for what is a champion of a race. We can’t wait to see how the event progresses in the future, but the decision taken by Jorge Sandoval and the organising team to move the race north certainly appears to have been one well-made.