Benchmark Homes Tour
Round One - Benchmark Homes Classic
Saturday, 16th February 2008 at Yaldhurst
Timaru cyclist Marc Ryan (Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team) reigned supreme on Saturday to win the opening round of the 2008 Benchmark Homes Tour. Dream, as he is affectionately known, finished best amongst the 103 starters in the 131km Benchmark Homes Classic that was raced in atrocious conditions between Yaldhurst and Oxford.
Whilst many other Canterbury sporting events were cancelled due to the weather conditions, the eleven teams and individual entrants assembled in pouring rain with the prospect of over three hours in the saddle ahead of them. One could have been forgiven for staying in bed, however the hard men and women of the Benchmark Homes Tour were keen to be part of the experience and honour their commitment to their respective sponsors.
As soon as the red flag was dropped following the neutralized section out of town, the peloton was quick to get into its racing as the team service vehicles followed with window-wipers at times on full. A number of attacks were made before a four-man break went clear after 20 kilometres. This contained Ryan and team-mate Darren Shea, Sam Horgan (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team), and 17 year-old Jason Christie (Subway Cycling Team).
The quartet quickly settled into its rhythm and steadily increased its lead as a couple of crashes occurred in the peloton behind them. Following the long straights that make up the Old West Coast Road, the race turned onto the narrow twisting roads of View Hill that was going to favour the leaders and anyone who wanted to leave the main field and give chase.
Perhaps with this thought in mind, a further four-man chase-group escaped the field which by now was diminishing in numbers. Lester Settle (Lowe & Associates Cycling Team), Alex McGregor (Cycling Otago), Edward Barrett (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team), and Tom Findlay (Subway Cycling Team) gave chase to trail the leaders by approximately one minute at the 70km mark passing through the township of Oxford.
On to the straight road to Cust, the leaders could be seen by the chasers through the murk indicated by a Commissaire's flashing beacon. The peloton trailed Ryan and company by four minutes thirty seconds.
Topping the main obstacle of the day, Summerhill at kilometre 81, the breakaway extended its lead to 3 minutes to the chasers, whilst the peloton dropped further to 5 minutes 30 seconds behind.
As the rain again began to pour following a respite during the passing of Oxford, Shea attacked on the climb up German Road. The vigilant Christie reacted but in turn was countered by Ryan in a classic 'one-two' move between the Kelford pairing. Again Christie reacted but couldn't quite capture the rear wheel of Ryan as both Horgan then Shea slipped backwards.
Entering the 5.5km finishing circuit to be completed five times, Ryan was able to apply further pressure as Christie vainly tried to rejoin the more experienced lone leader. The pursuit of each other continued amongst the four original escapees as the peloton gathered in the four chasers behind.
Numerous attacks came from the main field, however Ryan retained his rhythm to almost lap the peloton as he soloed to the finish to collect the Richard Evans Trophy and the series white leader jersey. Christie confirmed his tag as a star of the future by finishing an impressive second just over three minutes behind Ryan, whilst Shea battled alone to finish a well deserved third place at 5 minutes 48 seconds.
Horgan was cruelly caught by an escape off the front of the peloton inside two laps to go before Cycling Otago rider Shane Melrose sprinted home for fourth place ahead of Anthony Chapman (Lowe & Associates Cycling Team), and Alex Meenhorst (Subway Cycling Team).
Tracy Clark (Team Thulé Cycling) showed why she is still a leading force in women's cycling by finishing first amongst a large number of women riders assembled from Nelson to Dunedin. Eight-times Tour of Southland winner Brian Fowler (Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team) finished seventh one place ahead of fellow Tour of Southland winner Stuart Lowe (Lowe & Associates Cycling Team) to secure the first Masters leader jersey of the series.
Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team has assembled a formidable team this year to narrowly win the day's Team prize ahead of Lowe & Associates and Subway. With double the entry of teams this year, the Team Classification will again be a sought after prize for any of the team principals and sponsors.
Round Two is scheduled for Sunday, March 16th at Timaru with The Cyclery Timaru 120.
1. Marc Ryan (Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team) 131km in 3hrs 09mins 26secs
2. Jason Christie (Subway Cycling Team/U23) at 3mins 13secs
3. Darren Shea (Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team/U23) at 5mins 48secs
4. Shane Melrose (Cycling Otago) at 6mins 30secs
5. Anthony Chapman (Lowe & Associates Cycling Team) same time
6. Alex Meenhorst (Subway Cycling Team/U23) st
7. Brian Fowler (Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team/Master) st
8. Stuart Lowe (Lowe & Associates Cycling Team/Master) st
9. Andrew Widdup (Lowe & Associates Cycling Team) st
10. Tim Burtenshaw (Bay City Cycling/U23) st
11. Brad McFarlane (Team Thulé Cycling) st
12. Jonathon Gee (BikeRIGHT Cycling Team) st
13. Sam Horgan (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team/U23) st
14. Andrew Williams (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team) st
15. Tom Findlay (Subway Cycling Team/U23) st
First Category Two – Shane Melrose
First Woman – Tracy Clark (Team Thulé Cycling)
Team Prize – Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team
Classification Leaders after Round One;
Series Overall – Marc Ryan
Under 23 – Jason Christie
Masters – Brian Fowler
Women – Tracy Clark
The Papanui Cycling Club Incorporated
Photos by Sonia Roussey