Surprises in sprint finishes at age cycling championships

By Cycling New Zealand

With most titles decided with sprint finishes, it proved an ideal recipe for plenty of surprises on the final day of the Grassroots Trust Age Group Cycling Nationals in Cambridge.

While there were some bold moves to break clear in the testing terrain towards Maungatautari, six of the seven major titles were decided in frantic sprints into Cambridge.

Local Te Awamutu Sports rider Alex Heaney had considered pulling out after some hard work in the hills with pre-race favourite Michael Torckler (Stratford).

However he stayed in the battle and worked his way to a handy position to outlast Torckler in the sprint finish to claim the senior honours over 105km.

“This is one of my highlights. It’s been a few years in the making and good to finally get something to show,” said Heaney. “I tried to keep my powder dry in the first half of the race although I was close to pulling the pin. I had given all I had with Torckler off the front. But I popped out at the right time, and opened it up when the rest came at us.”

The under-23 honours went to Hamilton City’s Nick Reddish over Canterbury’s Max Jones (Pegasus) with most of the peloton rolling around together until the bunch sprint.

The senior women’s race proved similar with five riders getting clear to fight the finish including Roxsolt Attaquer teammates Ruby Livingstone and Sharlotte Lucas, who has been in outstanding form this year.
However it was Canterbury Track rider Elyse Fraser who got the better of Lucas in the sprint for the honours.

Three riders went clear in the under-23 women’s race to fight out the finish with Otago’s Ella Harris getting the upper hand over Laura Newman-Watt (North Harbour) and Deborah Paine (Bike Manawatu).
There was interest in the under-19 battles with rising teenage star Ellesse Andrew using her track skills to outlast a 13-strong group in the bunch finish.

She had been dropped in the hills but worked hard with a small group to catch the peloton and used her speed to out-kick her rivals, finishing ahead of Britney Kerr (Cycling Nelson) and Niamh Fisher-Black (Tasman Wheelers).

“It was a really hard race and strong field. I got dropped but I had two strong riders with me to chase and get back on. I managed to get into a good position for the bunch sprint.”

Andrews will continue mileage on the road before turning her attentions firmly to August’s Junior World Track Championships.

The Under-19 boys’ title went to Counties Manukau rider Ben Hamilton who edged Bailey O’Donnell (Tinwald) in the sprint finish.

He caught O’Donnell near the finish with the pair working hard to remain clear over the final 2kms from the charging peloton.

“It is a pretty big deal. I wanted to win but did not expect to. I am over the moon to finally win a big race.”

He heads away with his Team Skoda group to compete in the Mersey Valley series in Tasmania this week.

There was double success for Nelson’s Finn Fisher-Black who added the under-17 road race to his win in the time trial, finishing clear of the Counties Manukau pair of Joshua Kench and Lachlan Dickson in an impressive performance.

Senior men, 105km: Alex Heaney (Te Awamutu Sports) 2:34.50, 1; Michael Torckler (Stratford) same time, 2; Winston Briggs (Bike Manawatu) st, 3.
Under-23, 105km: Nick Reddish (Hamilton City) 2:34.50, 1; Max Jones (Pegasus) st, 2; Boris Clark (Te Awamutu Sports) st, 3.
Under-19: Ben Hamilton (Counties Manukau) 2:33.55, 1; Bailey O’Donnell (Tinwald) st, 2; Dylan Simpson (Bike ManawatuP at 8s, 3.
Under-17 boys 72km: Finn Fisher-Black (Tasman Wheelers) 1:49.09, 1; Joshua Kench (Counties Manukau) at 22s, 2; Lachlan Dickson at 2:14, 3.
Senior women, 72km: Elyse Fraser (Canterbury Track) 1:51.08, 1; Sharlotte Lucas (Papanui) st, 2; Kirsty McCallum (Ramblers) at 1sec, 3.
Under-23, 72km: Ella Harris (Cycling Otago) 1:51.09, 1; Laura Newman-Watt (North Harbour) st, 2; Deborah Paine (Bike Manawatu) st, 3.
Under-19, 72km: Ellesse Andrews (Te Awamutu Sports) 2:06.20, 1; Britney Kerr (Nelson) st, 2; Niamh Fisher-Black (Tasman Wheelers) st, 3.
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