On Sunday the H and J Smith Outdoor World Cycling Team embarked on one of their most unique races to dat , the 141 km Hell of the South. Named this after the famous Hell of the North (Paris – Roubaix) the 5 gravel sections totalling 9 km it has similarities to the famous Northern France Classic.
Above is an image of the gravel in the first 1300 m section
The night before the team headed to the one of the Speight’s ale house for dinner and to cheer the Stags on to another successful shield defence, an integral team building part of the trip!
The race started in cold drizzley conditions, the first 80 km being on the flat winding around near Lake Ellesmere. Our race plan this week was pretty simple, get Dillon Bennett and Hamish Tomlinson into the front group, and for Sequoia to stay as well placed as possible. Early on in the race a group of 5 escaped on the winding roads , but without Benchmark or Bici Vida present, we were pretty confident it would be brought back later in the race. For us this week without the firepower of Bulling, Presbury and Karwowski, we were really unable to lend too much of a hand in the chasing department.
Super Domestique Lachie Shannen (see video below), did another great job feeding at 50 km on queue and just before the first unsealed section, getting bottles and pulling the everyone to the front of the bunch.
The first gravel section saw the bunch split straight away, all our guys making the front group and Sequoia the only girl in it, she rode brilliant position and looked strong. A great sign after a winter and full time University in Dunedin. Unfortunately the second group caught back up, and in the third section she punctured when again just one of 2 women left in the main group.
Above: Coes ford, another obstacle for the riders
After the 4th gravel section the race split with Dillon and Hamish both making the front group, this still 2 min behind the early breakaway and only 35 km left to reel them in. What was impressive in the last 25 km was their presence at the front chasing attacks and instigating them themselves.
The pair continued this until the finish, trying to split up the leading group, unsuccessful however and coming across the line in 12th and 16th respectively. Marcel Baird again had another great ride, finishing 2nd in the cat 2 section and Brehan Cairns 3rd, whilst Sequoia battled on after the puncture for a very creditable 3rd. Other Southlanders, Michael White, Logan Edgar, and Jerry Stock also had strong races for their teams, Kuhmo Tyres and Cycle Surgery.
This trip was once again a great experience at introducing this young team to tough racing, and the teamwork and ability to race to a plan was carried out brilliantly. A great job from a very young and largely inexperienced team. The next round is in the North Canterbury area on September 11, where we may have Junior World fourth placegetter Pieter Bulling back to lend his horsepower to the team. The H & J Outdoor World team is now in fifth place in the teams section and hope to move up in the closing rounds with the help of the returning overseas riders.