Canterbury University student Ollie Jones backed up pre-race favouritism and Dunedin dentist Jacob Grieve won his first Calder Stewart Cycling Series race in today’s opening round of the series, the Wensleys Cycles Southland Classic.
Held in Southland for the first time in near perfect conditions, racing in Wyndham, eastern Southland across elite men’s, masters and women’s events saw Jones (Ridge Homes) win the elite men’s 141 kilometre race in three hours and 19 minutes, edging out Campbell Pithie (ChCh Doorman Elite Cycling) and Luke Price (Oxford Edge Cycling Team) in a tight sprint finish.
In the masters race Grieve (Cycle Lab Joyride) got away from his breakaway companions Cycleworld Emersons teammates Andy Hilton and Stu Crook with nine kilometres of the 101 kilometre masters race left and held off the chasing peloton to win in two hours and thirty two minutes.
Jones had shown good form in last month’s Vantage Elite & U23 Road National Championship in Cambridge where he finished fifth just over a minute behind the winner Shane Archbold and his fellow World Tour professional George Bennett who was second.
Riding today with only one team mate Jones made sure he was in the day’s key break of 14 riders that escaped after 10 kilometres that included Pithie, Price, Team Skoda Fruzio team mates Andrew Bidwell, Bailey O’Donnell and Keegan Hornblow, John Wasink (BlackMax Nutrition), Logan Currie (Transport Engineering Southland) and his sole team mate Hamish Sadler.
The group worked well to establish and hold its lead until Jones put the pressure on up a climb with 55 kilometres left, and the group of 14 became eight. The breakaway got back to work until Jones, Pithie and Currie all threw in attacks only to be reeled back in.
The closing kilometres saw a jostling for position with the group’s best sprinter O’Donnell having to do a quick bike change with teammate Bidwell with five kilometres left, leaving him to chase back through the vehicle convoy just failing to regain contact with the leaders.
“Bailey has got the better of me a few times in recent races and is usually faster than me so I knew I was probably the second favourite in the group but once he had to do the bike change I backed myself so I’m pretty happy with the win,” Jones said.
“It worked out perfectly with my team mate Hamish. I said going into the race we just had to stick together as there was only two of us and he attacked at the finish with 600 metres to go which forced everyone to go early and gave me the perfect run at other wheels setting me up well to go for the win.”
“I love racing in Southland and their riders always make the effort to support the series further north so it was great to support the first Calder Stewart race in Southland, made even better with the win.”
Jones claimed the elite men’s leaders’ jersey while Pithie and Price won the Under 23 and Under 19 jerseys.
The masters race saw a series of attacks in the first half of racing not come to much until the halfway point that saw Hilton ride off the front of the peloton with Grieve attached to his wheel, the pair successfully bridging across to Crooks who was 10 seconds up the road.
“Once we were all together off the front we just rode and worked hard,” Grieve, who is in his second year of riding in the series as a master after a number of years racing in the elite ranks, said.
“With about nine kilometres to go I just went full gas up a short power climb and got a gap and then although I was dying and cramping at times, just rode and held it to the line. We rode well as a team which meant I could conserve energy early on so it was just a great day on the bike.”
Wellington cyclist David Rowlands (Christchurch Mitsubishi) won the bunch sprint to claim second 18 seconds behind Grieve with Justin Stott (Cycleworld Emersons) third.
Grieve won the series 34 to 44 age group leaders jersey while Rowlands claimed to 45 to 49 leaders jersey and Dunedin’s Geoff Keogh (Cyclelab Joyride) fourth place finish saw him take home the over 50’s leaders jersey.
Former professional rider and Tour de France stage winner in the team’s time trial Chris Jenner was a nonstarter after suffering injuries in yesterday’s Gore to Invercargill race.
The only woman in today’s race, Emily Paterson, rode well in the master’s race until finding herself alone, finishing in a time in two hours and 50 minutes.