Hunter Gough claimed the first Cycling Southland classic of the season when took out a photo finish in the Geo W Wilson and Sons Limited Gore to Waikiwi Classic on Saturday.
The racers faced tough conditions on the 64km course, with the cold, rain, and wind combining to make it a day favouring the hardiest of riders. The event was run as a handicap race, with the fastest riders setting off last, and Gough was part of the final group to hit the road, facing an uphill battle to catch up to the front of the race before the finish line.
Working together well, the scratch group made their way through the field, with Morgan Borrie, Blake Tait-Jones, Matt Zenovich, Hamish Keast, and Gough all contributing to the workload. However, the pace started to tell on some of the riders in the group, and by the time they had made it through the field and started pushing for the line, only Keast, Zenovich, and Gough where left.
These were the same three riders who made up the podium in the 2020 edition of the race, with Keast taking the win that time around, so they were thoroughly familiar with one another.
Coming into the line, Zenovich took the lead, with Gough on his wheel, and Keast in third. Zenovich opened the sprint early up the left hand side of the road, with Gough popping out on his right as they sprinted for the line. The win came down to a bike throw, with Gough’s throw so violent his front wheel left the ground. However, it was good enough to take the win, with Zenovich in second and Keast in third.
The next group to finish was led home by the first veteran, Gene Marsh, and also contained Rhylee Akeroyd, who was the fastest female finisher.
The event also featured two junior classics, one for riders in the under 17 and under 15 divisions, and another for those in the under 13 division.
In the U17/15 race, Marshall Erwood started solo on scratch, and raced through the field to take a solo win at the end. Frankie Thomson came home in second, with Caitlin Kelly taking the bunch sprint for third.
Cooper Gough, the younger brother of open classic winner Hunter, took out the U13 classic, managing to stay with the U15/17 bunch as they swept past him, and taking a great win, with Oskar McIvor taking second (and fastest time), ahead of Benjie Shayler in third.
The next major event on the Cycling Southland calendar is the Stonewood Homes Gore to Invercargill Classic, taking place on 28 August.