Aggressive riding by Aucklander Gordon McCauley (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team) paid dividends when he won round two of the eight-round Benchmark Homes Tour in Timaru on Sunday. The Commonwealth Games medalist was the main protagonist of the day along-side last year’s series winner Paul Odlin (Village Cycles) in a race that was non-stop action from start to finish.
A record size field of nearly 120 cyclists that included thirteen teams lined-up for The Cyclery Timaru 120 held over 4 laps of an undulating circuit totalling 135 kilometres. As soon as the neutralized section was complete, attacks were made with disregard for the distance ahead. This was the pattern for the first lap before a 14-man group escaped shortly after the first passing of the start-finish line.
McCauley, team-mate Sam Horgan, and Tom Findlay (Subway Cycling Team) were the last to be included in this group after giving chase to join Odlin; Reon Park and Stephen Elden (Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team); James Gibson (Lowe & Associates); Joe Cooper (Subway Cycling Team); Alex McGregor (Cycling Otago); Daniel Barry (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team); Chris Nicholson (Star & Garter Wheelers – Tasman); Ashleigh Whitehead and Michael Vink (Delmaine Fine Foods); and Craig Lawn (Scott – Penny Farthing Cycles).
The fourteen riders worked well together quickly building a lead of one minute 12 seconds at the 52km mark. Shortly after, Barry and Cooper applied pressure on a small rise and skipped clear. Unfortunately for the duo their chasers were still working well and reeled them in before the half-way mark of the race as the fourteen leaders now led the reduced main field by 2 minutes 43 seconds. Immediate accelerations by both McCauley and Odlin dislodged Barry and Cooper from the group, and coupled with a crash by Whitehead, the lead group was reduced to eleven.
Lap three saw McCauley and Findlay go clear, and despite sharing the workload evenly, they gained never more than a ten second lead on Odlin and company who lost McGregor, Gibson, and the unlucky Vink who punctured.
The two leaders were recaptured at the close of the lap as the now eight-man lead group began the final 33km circuit with a 5 minute 50 second lead on the peloton. The odds appeared to be in favour of the teams of Benchmark and Kelford – Reiker who had the numbers advantage of two riders each in the break. And so it proved despite several more attacks by Odlin, when McCauley and Horgan were able to attack in unison which resulted in McCauley riding clear with less than 10 kilometres to ride.
The lone leader’s advantage remained at 5 – 10 seconds until he reached the residential streets of Timaru where the gap extended to 20 seconds. New Zealand cycling’s most prolific winner did not need any more invitation than the gap offered and gallantly held off his pursuers to win his first outing in the orange colours of his new sponsor.
At 13 seconds behind McCauley was former double-Olympian Nicholson who snuck past Horgan on the line as Odlin, Lawn, Findlay, Elden, and Park followed closely behind.
Barry did a fine ride to finish alone 5 minutes 3 seconds down to secure the team prize for the Benchmark Homes Cycling Team. Nimesha Smith (BikeRIGHT Cycling Team) continued with her good form from last weekend’s Tour of Canterbury to sprint home Cycling Otago’s Sara MacDonald to finish as first woman.
The day’s results produced leader changes in each of the four individual classifications as McCauley took over the series lead from the absent Marc Ryan (Kelford – Reiker Cycling Team), whilst Horgan (Under 23), Nicholson (Masters), and Smith (Women) all donned leader jerseys to wear into round three at Cust on April 5th