The H and J Outdoor Cycling team had a tough reintroduction to top level racing on the weekend, when they competed in the Twizel to Timaru and Benchmark series round 2 double header.
After travelling to Lake Ohau village on Friday the team awoke to an extremely windy Saturday and the realization that the 150 km journey was going to be a tough one!
The team of Brehan Cairns, Kirk Hamilton, Marcel Baird, Tom Vessey, Pieter Bulling and Matt Zenovich were altogether on the break mark whilst the sole female Sequoia Cooper a couple of bunches further forward. Crosswinds was the word of the first 70 km whilst travelling north around the power lakes before turning towards the coast. During this stage the young lads were riding very strongly on break, but were constantly fighting the strong winds. Punctures to Brehan and Kirk made for punishing rechases also. Scratch Marker Marc Ryan completely destroyed the scratch mark and towed only two others with him up to the break boys by Lake Tekapo, with only one break rider able to stay with him in the difficult conditions. Without chance of riding through the field our boys wisely deciding to focus on the next day and calling it a day between the 70 and 100 km marks. Piet Bulling ,Tom Vessey and Matt Zenovich fairing best and looking strong for a good result on the Sunday and further into the season. This left Sequoia who was still some way up the road to fly the flag . Coming into not long after Fairlie , Marc and co caught the now very large front group . Now the wind had dropped and roads turned flat it was clear it would stay in a large bunch all the way to the finish. Marc Ryan was super impressive soloing the last 40 km to win alone, leaving the big bunch sprint coming 3 mins behind him. Sequoia produced a good sprint after 151 km of racing but just got pipped by Josie Giddens on the line for the fastest women of the day, still a mighty good effort.
The Sunday race saw the two Hamish’s Sub in for Kirk and Marcel for the 125 km Benchmark race. An undulating course with some nuggety false flat sections with crosswinds made for a challenging course. Tom Vessey and Matt Z were extremely active in the opening laps looking to get in the winning move. Both these young guys showed great strength and ability and were unlucky that none of these quite stuck. Sequoia rode strongly for the first part of the race before a hill and the preceding days efforts took toll on her, well after many of the girls had already gone.
Coming into the closing stages of the race , Matt Z unfortunately jammed his chain (there was no way it was coming out !) taking him out of consideration, leaving Just Tomlinson and Vessey for the last 25 km, after Presbury and Bulling who had done a great job early for the team also found a false flat crosswind their breaking point. Bulling showing the sort of promise we all know he is capable of however.
Both the lads finished high in the bunch sprint but outside the top 5. With the race being won by last lap escapee, Tom Hubbard of the Subway team.
All in all, a great weekend once again and great to see the two first timers Vessey and Zenovich going so well . The next round on October the 8th will see Cam Karwowski come back in, to defend his title he won in this same race last year.
Big Thanks to John Green once again for his continued support and enthusiasm.