The Yunca Junior Tour of Southland came to a conclusion with the final two days of racing seeing GC battles heat up, as well as a few truly dominant performances.
Stage 3 – Beast of the East
The third stage of the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland took place on a 25.15km circuit that rose from the halfway point to provide a stiff challenge, particularly for the U17 and U19 riders who would have to take on multiple laps of the course. The U13 riders would take on half a lap while the U15s would take on two.
In the U13 race it was Marshall Erwood who continued to dominate proceedings, taking the win ahead of Noah Hollamby. The duo broke clear and put 38 seconds into Tyla-Mia Foster who was third across the line, and also consolidated her lead in the girls’ race.
Rhylee Akeroyd claimed stage honours in the U15 girls race, taking the win out of a bunch of 10 riders who came to the finish line together. Akeroyd took the sprint ahead of Bee Townsend and race leader Katie Batt who still held a 5 second advantage. A bunch sprint also decided the U15 boys’ race with Mitchel Fitzsimons the victor ahead of Luke Price and Kaio Lart. By finishing fourth, Michiel Van Heyningen was able to maintain his overall lead.
The U17 women saw Sami Donnelly taking the stage win ahead of Ally Wollaston and Emily Paterson, with Wollaston in control of the sprint and QOM classifications. A bunch sprint was again the order of the day with 9 riders approaching the finish line together. In the men’s race Laurence Pithie came away with stage honours, besting Finn Fisher-Black and Griffyn Spencer in the big bunch sprint.
Niamh Fisher-Black put a small gap between her and the rest in the U19 women’s race to finish 2 seconds clear of Sophie-Leigh Bloxham and Connie O’Brien. The win also put Fisher-Black 3 seconds up on Kate Smith in the overall standings.
In the U19 men’s race a small group contested the win, with a group of five riders distancing the rest of the field quite significantly. Bailey O’Donnell was the fastest of them, finishing ahead of Samuel Miller and Daniel Reid, with Corbin Strong and Henry Levett completing the top five on the stage. O’Donnell’s win saw him take the overall race lead by 6 seconds going into stage 4.
Stage 4 – New Vale Circuit
The fourth stage of the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland took in a 17.85km rolling circuit. The stage took in anything from 1 lap for the U13s to four laps for the U19 men. Continuing on in the tradition of the previous three stages Marshall Erwood took stage 4 ahead of Jesse Willis and Noah Hollamby.
U15 boys, girls and U17 women took on two laps of the course, with Rosie O’Brien taking out the win in the U15 girls race. O’Brien broke away with Katie Batt, with the pair taking upwards of 1.20min on the closest riders behind. O’Brien ultimately succeeded in putting time into Batt, finishing 5 seconds ahead at the line and closing to within 5 seconds of Batt’s lead overall. In the boy’s race it was Kaio Lart who took top spot on the day, while Michiel Van Heyningen maintained his overall lead after finishing fourth behind Lart, Mitchel Fitzsimons and Luke Price.
Ally Wollaston not only took the stage win in the U17 women’s race but with it the overall race lead. Wollaston finished ahead of Hannah Bartram and Sami Donnelly, with Wollaston overtaking Donnelly in the overall standings to lead by just 1 second. The 51km U17 men’s race saw Josh Lane leap from 9th overall to 1st with victory in stage 4, which saw him get the better of Ari Scott and Finn Fisher-Black in the finale. Lane finished 9 seconds clear of the former and 16 ahead of the latter to take the lead in the GC bt 6 seconds from Fisher-Black.
In the U19 women’s race Niamh Fisher-Black put a further 4 seconds into Kate Smith by taking stage honours over the 34km course. Fisher-Black took out the small group sprint finish ahead of Connie O’Brien and Kate Smith. Meanwhile in the men’s race Bailey O’Donnell continued to lead the way with another stage victory ahead of Corbin Strong and Daniel Reid.
Stage 5 – Inner City Criterium
A 1.64km circuit was the centre stage for the penultimate stage of the Yunca Junior Tour of Southland. 3 laps would be tackled after 5 minutes of racing for the U13s, while the U19s and U17s would tackle 15mins plus 3 laps of the route. In stage 5 it was Jesse Willis who came away with top honours, finishing just ahead of Hamish Barlow and Magnus Jamieson, while Tyla-Mia Foster continued to lead the way in the girls’ race.
Rosie O’Brien continued to close the gap to rival Batt in the U15 girls’ race, winning the stage and coming to within 1 second of the overall lead with 1 stage remaining. Batt finished third and managed to hold on to the lead, while Rhylee Akeroyd placed second. Mitchel Fitzsimons took out the win in the U15 boys category ahead of Kaio Lart and Luke Price; with overall leader Michiel Van Heyningen fourth.
Ally Wollaston continued her surge in form in the U17 women’s criterium, taking the stage win and consolidating her overall lead. Her win came ahead of Sami Donnelly and Erin Downie. In the men’s race it was a win for Laurence Pithie who took the big bunch sprint ahead of Keegan Hornblow and Griffyn Spencer.
In the U19 women’s race Niamh Fisher-Black continued to lead overall, but it was Connie O’Brien taking out stage honours ahead of Britney Kerr and Sophie-Leigh Bloxham. Of the men Ben Hogan came out strongest in a great display of strength as he got the better of Niels Van Antwerpen and Andrew Bidwell, with the nearest bunch 26 seconds adrift.
Stage 6 – Grove Bush
And so to the final stage, ranging from 14km to 90km depending on the category, with the stage taking place around Grove Bush on a tough course that presented plenty of opportunities for time gaps and upsets in the GC battle. There were no such problems though for Marshall Erwood or Tyla-Mia Foster who secured the U13 boys and girls crowns with their performances on the final stage. Erwood took the stage win ahead of Noah Hollamby and Jesse Willis with Foster fourth across the line.
Katie Batt also had no problems in securing the overall crown after the threat posed by Rosie O’Brien. In the U15 girls race Batt took the win 7 seconds ahead of Bee Townsend and Rhylee Akeroyd. O’Brien finished 16 seconds behind Batt but it was enough to finish second overall with Townsend third. The boys race saw the first of the big GC changes on the final stage, with Mitchel Fitzsimons jumping from second to first overall as Michiel Van Heyningen dropped to 6th. Kaio Lart took the stage and moved to second overall, with Luke Price completing the GC podium.
In the U17 girls race Ally Wollaston secured GC honours with a final stage win that saw her get the better of Helena Rikiti and Sami Donnelly. Donnelly took second place overall with Hannah Bartram third on GC. Josh Lane went into the final stage with a 5 second advantage, and succeeded in taking out the overall crown with 5th place in the final stage behind Xander White who took the win.
Niamh Fisher-Black took out the U19 women’s title with a final stage win ahead of Connie O’Brien and Kate Smith who took second and third on the stage and GC respectively. Finally in the U19 men’s race Corbin Strong took the final stage, but Bailey O’Donnell did enough with his fourth place finish on the stage to take the overall title.