A stunning ride by Subway-Avanti’s James Williamson saw him tame the South in the fourth round of the Benchmark Homes cycling tour today.
The race, commonly referred to as the “hell of the South” included five unsealed road sections, making for a challenging ride.
An early break away, which included Williamson, broke free in the first three kilometres. Six riders, including Mark Spessot(Cycle Surgery) the current master’s leader, worked hard to carve a 4 minute 50 second lead.
They were well ahead of the chasing bunch as they approached the first of the much feared gravel sections.
It was on the final gravel section that Williamson launched his attacked. He was forced to battle the headwind alone as he soloed to victory.
“The gravel wasn’t too bad actually, it was relatively smooth and was sheltered. It was the headwind in the final stages that made it really difficult,” Williamson said.
Williamson only returned to New Zealand on Wednesday after a stint racing in the US. He brought with him some fine form as the result of the punishing Tour de Quinghai Lake he completed in China with his New Zealand based Subway Avanti Pro Cycling Team. He was confident that he would do well today.
“I didn’t plan to get into the break, but once I was in it I knew I could do it.”
It was on the gravel that Williamson attacked. His first attempt only managed to shake off Robin Reid (Tasman Wheelers). On his second try he was successful, quickly taking a few hundred meters from Anthony Chapman (Ultimo Jamis) and Spessot, the last remaining members of the original break.
The gravel splintered the chasing peloton, giving thirty or so riders the chance to hunt down the lead group.
Bici Vida’s Paul Odlin rode off the front of this group. From three minutes back he managed to slowly reel in first Reid, and then Champan and Spessot. Odlin had Williamson in his sights in the home straight but couldn’t bridge the final gap, his phenomenal effort seeing him take second five seconds behind Williamson.
Under 23 rider James McCoy, (Benchmark Homes) who placed fifth today, is now the current leader of the Tour, bypassing former leader and teammate Josh Atkins. McCoy and the Benchmark Homes Team rode a gutsy effort in search of the win today, but were disadvantaged as they missed the pivotal break.
“It nice to have Benchmark Homes leading the series. Because the next few races are hillier they suit me a bit better. We will take the rest of the series as it comes - by targeting each race individually the overall series should take care of itself, but we are in a good position to win it,” said McCoy.
Spessot, third overall, took out the master’s category. Sarah Smallman (Team Thule Racing) was the first female home.
While the weather was kind, alleviating some of the ‘hell’ of the South, it was still a tough day for most of the peloton as several crashes saw many riders hit the deck.
The next round of the series is on the 11th of September.