Benchmark Homes Race Report: Round One
This year a group of Cycling Southland riders have entered in the Benchmark race series. The team is sponsored by H & J Smith Outdoor World who have been integral in making this series for our riders possible. The team is based around development of Southland Members in team road racing and giving them some hard race experience to set them up for overseas racing in the future. The first round was held in Nelson on Sunday, following the Graperide in Blenheim the previous day.
The 100km Graperide was raced with big crosswinds in the opening kilometres, and at an extremely fast pace. Sequoia Cooper was one of only two women left in the main bunch when race organisers decided to stop the race because the riders were severely on the right hand side of the road, with oncoming cars! Unfortunately this allowed several women to regain the bunch some with more hill climbing prowess, not long before the 3 km hill out of Picton. In the end Cam finished in 9th place, having ridden with a broken seat and a slow puncture for 50 km! Several of the guys finished in the next main bunch back with Sequoia and Cathy finishing in 5th and 10th place respectively.
The next morning was the 112 km women's and 161 km men's Benchmark race in Upper Moutere near Nelson. Our team was Cam Karwowski, Hamish Presbury, Cathy Jordan, Sequoia Cooper, Dillon Bennett, Brehan Cairns, Lachie Shannon, Simon Croom and late replacement for Hamish T, Winton lad Lachlan Boyle.
The race started with terrible luck for Sequoia whose chain broke in the neutral zone, with no time to fix. So she quickly became team feeder for the day. Our H & J Smith Outdoor World team worked extremely well together to look after team leader for the day Cam Karwowski who showed good form the previous day. Cam got himself in a breakaway situation chasing the lead group and fell on an extremely slippery downhill corner. After continuing for sometime with considerable hip pain it was decided he should pull out to avoid further damage. Lachie and Simon continued to work like Trojans taking bottles to Hamish Presbury and Dillon who had been riding in the front and making small splits in the closing laps.
Coming up to the finish these two got themselves in great position up the final climb and put Pres into a good spot to have a crack at the finish , where he narrowly missed second place in a 4 way sprint finishing 5th , with Dillon just behind in 9th. The other lads all finished in the main two bunches, after really working well over the course of the race, with Cathy also finishing, a great effort after some intensive studying in recent weeks. The whole weekend was a great experience for everyone, and team sponsor John Green from H & J Smith had a blast as team driver making the process very rewarding for all.
The next round follows the Lake Brunner Challenge in Hokitika on April the 18th with Pieter Bulling coming into the team and hopefully a fit Hamish Tomlinson to add some real fire power to our team.
Photos are available for view on www.cyclingphotos.co.nz