New Zealand’s junior riders enjoyed back-to-back top ten finishes in the opening day of individual racing at the UCI World Road Championships in Yorkshire.  Finn Fisher-Black and Ella Wyllie both produced tenth-placed performances with the latter less than a minute from the coveted rainbow jersey.

The solo representative for New Zealand against the clock in the junior women’s race, Ella Wyllie was the 42nd of 50 riders to leave the start ramp in Harrogate to tackle the short 13.7km course that lightly rolled its way towards the finish with a 1.1km climb up Harlow Moor Road averaging 5.6% being the major obstacle en route to the finish.

By the time Wyllie was in full flight with her effort, the provisional best time had been set by Leonie Bos; who stopped the clock in 22.37mins, an average speed of 36.345kph.  The slick conditions needed to be taken into consideration, particularly with a couple of technical turns that had the potential to cause serious problems.  Wyllie appeared quite at home, however, on the roads as she took on the course in quite aggressive fashion; adopting a very low tuck position.

Bos’ time would last through Wyllie’s ride as the Kiwi stopped the clock 30 seconds slower than the Dutch rider, in a time that would be provisionally good enough for fifth place.  Wyllie’s average speed of 35.5kph was a great result over the course; and now it would all be about waiting for the final 8 riders to come home. 

Of those eight riders only five of them could better Wyllie’s time with Russia’s Aigul Gareeva taking the win in a time of 22.16mins.  Shirin van Anrooij of the Netherlands came home second with Great Britain’s Elynor Backstedt third in front of a home crowd.  It was a close battle with the top 12 separated by less than a minute.

Wyllie’s 10th place betters the 11th of Madeleine Park in Doha back in 2016, the 13th place of Devon Hiley in 2013, and is the best result since Rachel Mercer placed 4th back in 2007.

In the men’s race Logan Currie, Reuben Thompson and Finn Fisher-Black took on the 27.6km course that took in two attempts of the Harlow Moor Road climb.  Reuben Thompson was the very first rider to start.  When he left the start ramp conditions looked to be improving but there were still a number of damp spots on the road.  With no point of reference to attempt to catch Thompson simply got on with the job at hand; stopping the clock in 41.17mins which would be good enough for 29th out of the 63 starters.

Of the first half of the starters it was Marco Brenner who produced one of the stand out performances for Germany; with his ride seeing him catch Logan Currie on his way to a bronze medal performance that saw the clock stop in 38.41mins.  Enzo Leinse went slightly quicker in 38.36mins.  Currie would stop the clock 14 seconds faster than teammate Thompson to finish 27th overall in a time of 41.03mins.

Finn Fisher-Black was the last of the Kiwis to leave the start ramp, with Italian Antonio Tiberi ahead of him and having set the fastest time in spite of a bike change.  The U19 individual pursuit world record holder hammered his way through the early stages of the course, going fastest after 4.5km by 13 seconds.

At the end of the first lap, however, Fisher-Black was sitting 5th fastest with a 51 second deficit to the fastest split at the halfway mark set by Brenner.  Over the next lap Fisher-Black would concede 16 more seconds, stopping the clock in 39.34mins which would be good enough for 10th place.  Antonio Tiberi’s time of 38.28mins proved good enough for the gold medal, even with the problems out on the course and pretty slow bike change.  Enzo Leijnse took silver 8 seconds behind him with Marco Brenner third for Germany.

Fisher-Black’s tenth placed finish is the best result by a junior male rider since James Oram claimed silver for New Zealand back in 2011 behind Mads Würtz Schmidt.  Prior to that Tom David claimed 7th place in the South African edition of the Worlds back in 2008 and took 5th the year before in Mexico.  

More to come . . .

Photo: Robert Jones

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