Southland’s Cameron Karwowski was the best of the BikeNZ-Pure Black Racing team with a top-25 finish in the prestigious UCI Nations Cup Under-23 Tour of Flanders today.
The 21 year old battled superbly in the peloton throughout the gruelling 173km test involving a number of telling climbs and significant sections over the famed cobbles in Belgium in a race that features the best under-23 cyclists in the world.
Karwowski, a 2009 junior world track champion, was close to the lead with 1km remaining but got swamped in a frantic sprint finish, recording the same time as the 50-strong peloton in 24th place.
It proved a challenging day for the BikeNZ-Pure Black Racing team on the famed Tour of Flanders course, using most of the hills and cobblestone section used for the Pro Tour event last weekend, and providing arguably the sternest test for cyclists.
“This is as tough as it gets for a road cyclist and is one of the great races in the world,” said BikeNZ High Performance Directors, Mark Elliott. “It is difficult to describe to non-cyclists the demands of racing over the cobbles and there are around 15 short but very sharp hills, some on the cobbles, on each lap.
“It’s a race that goes back a century involving the Pro Tour riders and Pro Women last weekend and the best under-23 riders this week. There’s no doubt it provides our riders with a chance to be part of the Olympics of road cycling for them.”
The other big New Zealand hope was Team Bissell professional Patrick Bevin, who had been in outstanding form coming into the race. The US-based professional suffered from a back complaint, exacerbated by the jarring cobbles, and was forced to withdraw while Trek Livestrong’s Josh Atkins had his chances thwarted with a puncture 60km from the finish. He rejoined, given a wheel by teammate Dion Smith, but could not get back on to the bunch after 10km of solo chasing.
Auckland’s Taylor Gunman finished in the chase bunch 8m24m down while James Oram was brought down in a crash and associated mechanical problems.
Less than half the field managed to finish the gruelling test.
The BikeNZ-Pure Black Racing team have another big test mid-week in the next round of the UCI Nations Cup in the 175km La Cote Picardie or the north west coast of France. Every winner of this race over the last seven years has gone on to earn a place on a World Pro Tour team.