New Zealand’s top cycling teams were expected to dominate day one of the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling in Christchurch today. But it was several surprise individuals who stole the show.
Christchurch awoke to perfect cycling weather this morning as almost 900 riders lined up at Waipara for the opening races of the 2011 Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling. In just seven years this two-day event has become one of New Zealand’s premier cycling events, with top quality elite racing but also providing something for cycling enthusiasts of all age and ability, from the 90k Waipara Challenge road ride, to the 26k Frog Rock Mountain Bike and the Benchmark Homes Junior Challenge.
The Waipara Challenge road race was billed as a rivalry between Team Subway Cycling, Team Mico-ProTrain and Team Pure Black Racing, but a late entry by inform track specialist Tom Scully threw a spanner in the works.
Pure Black Racing, the team that took the American scene by storm this year, had a strong four-person squad at Waipara and did indeed dominate proceedings for most of the rolling route around the regions farmlands and vineyards. The race stayed bunched together until almost halfway when a series of attacks combined with a long climb and a stiff headwind saw the race break open.
Mike Northey (Akld) of Pure Black, Paul Odlin (Chch) of Subway Cycling and Tom Scully (Invercargill) established a break with about 30k to go. A handy tailwind saw them stretch the lead to one minute with just 20k to ride.
Scully, wearing the kit of World Tour team, Garmin Cervelo, who he rode for as a neo-pro this year, was a late entry on the eve of this year’s race. Just a week ago he won gold at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships, so as the fast finisher and form athlete, Odlin and Northey tried hard to soften him up before the final sprint. But with 2k to go they were still together and the tactics began.
Odlin tried to open a long sprint with 300m to go, but was covered by Northey, who in turn was covered and then attacked by Scully. Northey responded, but Scully kicked again with 100m to go to win by a bike length in 2hrs 12min 54secs.
The women’s race also saw a sprint finish and surprise winner, but following a different style of racing. Favourites Emily Collins and Kate Chilcott were marked heaviley and despite attacking several times, eventually decided to wait for a sprint finish. Canadian Shailie Sanbrooks didn’t have that luxury. The day before the race the 26 year old first year pro was knocked off her bike in a hit-and-run incident while training on Ferry Road in Christchurch. Despite being in pain, she started the race but dropped off the lead bunch after 15k and rode the remainder of the race solo.
Back up front the women’s race turned into a tactical affair, with Collins forced into the lead with 2k to go. Chilcott sat on her wheel waiting to sprint, but was surprised by a strong finish from Nelson’s Karen Fulton. The several times national medallist burst past them both in the last 100m. Collins responded again, but was a wheel width behind on the line as Fulton stopped the clock in 2hrs 32min 48secs.
In contrast to the road racing, the Frog Rock Mountain Bike threw up clear cut winners, although one was a surprise.
Headliners for the both the men’s and women’s 26k mountain bike were world junior number ones, Anton Cooper from Christchurch and Jolanda Neff from Swizterland. Cooper dominated his race as expected, beating fellow Cantabrian Brad Hudson by almost three minutes in 1hrs 34min 38secs, with Rangiora’s Craig Oliver just one second further back in third. But Neff, who landed in New Zealand only yesterday, was defeated by jetlag and a motivated Kristy Abbott from Christchurch, who won by 95 seconds in 1hrs 51min 21secs.
Tomorrow, the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling moves to downtown Christchurch for the Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium, which following the February earthquake has been shifted to Canterbury University. Tom Scully’s current form could see him become the first person to win both the road race and the criterium at the Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling. But he’ll face defending City Criterium Mike Northey again, as well as 2007 City Criterium winner Jason Allen, who like Scully has just come off a gold medal at the Oceania Track Cycling Champs.
The women’s race is expected to be dominated by Aucklanders Emily Collins and Kate Chilcott, who specialise in the criterium format on the American pro circuit. But Napier’s Serena Sheridan will be looking to avenge a disappointing ride today, and has previous experience from her criterium win in the 2008 Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling.
The Armstrong Motor Group City Criterium races get underway at 11:00am at Oxford terrace, with the feature elite races starting from 11:30am. For further details & results see: www.festivalofcycling.co.nz.
Armstrong Motor Group Festival of Cycling
Day 1 – Waipara
Elite Mens Road Race – 90k
1 Tom Scully Invercargill 2:12:54
2 Mike Northey Auckland same time
3 Paul Odlin Christchurch st
4 Cam Karwowski Invercargill 2:13:18
5 Tom Hubbard Christchurch st
6 Alex Frame Christchurch st
7 Tom Vessey Invercargill st
8 Kieran Hambrook Nelson 2:13:28
9 Jason Christie Ashburton 2:13:31
10 Hamish Schreurs Christchurch st
Elite Women’s Road Race – 90k
1 Karen Fulton Nelson 2:32:48
2 Emily Collins Auckland st
3 Kate Chilcott Auckland st
4 Kat Jones Dunedin 2:32:49
5 Nimesha Smith Christchurch st
6 Serena Sheridan Napier st
7 Reta Trotman Kaiapoi 2:32:50
8 Sharlotte Lucas Hokitika st
9 Sequoia Cooper Invercargill 2:32:51
10 Jeannie Kuhajek Nelson 2:32:52
Mens Frog Rock Mountain Bike – 26k
1 Anton Cooper Christchurch 1:34:38
2 Brad Hudson Christchurch 1:37:27
3 Craig Oliver Rangiora 1:37:28
4 Hayden Kent Amberley 1:42:51
5 Ben Oliver Rangiora 1:44:09
Womens Frog Rock Mountain Bike – 26k
1 Kristy Abbott Christchurch 1:51:21
2 Jolanda Neff Switzerland 1:52:56
3 Eloise Fry Nelson 1:59:05
4 Kay Evans Christchurch 2:07:51
5 Iena Foerstman Christchurch 2:07:57