The H & J Outdoor World Cycling Team’s season got off to a slow start following the Christchurch earthquake but it proved to still be an action-packed year!
Because of the quake the first couple of Benchmark races could not be held. The Benchmark Homes road race series were the focus for the team. However, following the quake we targeted a few of the big road races around the South Island instead. The team used these races to practice and develop team racing skills and to mix it with other top teams such as Subway and Pureblack.
The squad for 2011 consisted of myself, (Sequoia Cooper), Sophie Williamson, Cameron Karwowski, Hamish Presbury, Brehan Cairns, Tom Vessey, Hamish Tomlinson, Pieter Bulling, Tom Beadle, Matt Zenovich, Kirk Hamilton, Marcel Baird and Lachlan Shannon.
The team’s first campaign was a weekend away to the West Coast to take on the around Brunner Challenge and to attend the John Machejefski memorial races the following day. The West Coast did what is does best and it rained and poured on us for the whole 130 kilometres. A couple of hardy Southland kids took the race from the start, Brehan Cairns, Hamish Tomlinson and Matt Zenovich got into a break within the first 5 minutes. Brehan held on to take second place. I managed to pull through in the sprint to take first female with team mate Sophie Williamson taking third place.
The next day we took part in a couple of 40 km memorial races for John Machejefski (Ross’s dad). Since his passing Ross has held this day of races as a way to commemorate his father's passion for cycling in the area. All the West Coasters in their colourful polypro’s and baggy cycling shorts turned out for a couple of tough wee races. It was tough to back up the previous days rides however some top performances from Zeno, Sophie and Hamish Tomlinson.
The next big adventure was the trip to the middle of the Mainland. It was a full team affair with 10 riders fitted out in the H & J Outdoor world kit. We were set to race the Twizel to Timaru 150 kilometre classic. It was a long day in the saddle. But lucky enough for us middle markers the back markers and young aggressive juniors detonated themselves in the tough cross winds in the first half of the race. It was the longest race I had completed but after pulling up after that marathon effort I was quickly reminded that we would have to do it all again in the following days 120 kilometre Benchmark race.
The first Benchmark Holmes race was held just out of Timaru. The newest member of the team Central Otago’s Tom Vessey proved to be a powerhouse and took out a 6th place in a hilly aggressive race. Hamish Tomlinson somehow managed a top 10 finish- he rides himself in to form throughout the 130km stage.
The second Benchmark Homes race for us was held out of Christchurch in Oxford. It was an out and back course that went through the Ashley and Waimak gorges. With Cam back from overseas the team had the purpose to protect him within the race, setting him up nicely to get in the break of the day. Other strong rides from Zeno and Tom Vessey once again showed their road talent.
The grand finale of the 2011 season for the H & J Outdoor World Team was the Armstrong Motors Cycling Festival in Christchurch. Sadly, because of the earthquake, the road race and criterium couldn’t be held on the usual courses. However, the courses they did provide did make for some exciting racing. The road race was held north of Christchurch and over 1000 people entered in recreational to elite sections. Cam Karwowski was the only place getter on the day, he rode away from the elite male bunch to take 4th place and Tom Vessey 7th.
The criterium the next day held around the University car park had to be one of the tightest courses I have ridden. Personally I loved it but then I did only have to ride it with 15 other girls. The men’s field however had 40 starters but due to the nature of the course only 8 men finished. Anyone that was lapped had to pull out and there were numerous crashes taking out a few key riders. Tom Scully made it two from two and won the criterium after taking out the road race the previous day. I managed to get in a break away from the main field and finished up third in the women’s race with some aggressive riding from Sophie Williamson showing a return to form.
All this racing wouldn’t have happened without our main sponsor H & J Outdoor World with John Green. The team is extremely lucky to find a sponsor who not only wants to help us out with the costs of these trips but also invest personally and come away on the weekend trips with us. I think it’s fair to say we have John hooked on cycling – it must be our good banter on the long road trips to these races! So on behalf of the team and our lucky parents who don’t have to be the ones to take us snots away on weekend trips I would like to say a huge THANK YOU! We have all learnt so much from the race exposure.
Also thank you to Cycling Southland for their continued support!
Hopefully next year we can use what we have learnt in this campaign continue to develop some more young Southland talent and produce some winning performances in next year's road racing season.
Sequoia Cooper during the Armstrong Criterium where she took 3rd place.
Matt Zenovich looking relaxed before the Twizel to Timaru.