Strong winds usher in start of track cycling season

Last updated 13:43 26/10/2012

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On Sunday evening the 2012-13 Manawatu track cycling opened with a good turnout of new young riders as well as seasoned veterans.

Strong winds made for difficult racing, but this didn't stop riders from working hard for the win.

In contrast, the opening night for the highly popular Wednesday-night time trial series was delayed a week because of extreme winds.

Expect to see fast times during the series when they do start, though, with all riders aiming to set new personal bests throughout the the season and prizemoney up for grabs for the most improved.

■ Sunday was the Rangitikei River loop classic in Hunterville.

Weather was certainly not in the riders' favour with strong winds and wet roads making for difficult racing. The 50km race, on a challenging out-and-back course, was won by Palmerston North Boys' High School rider Cameron Huston coming in more than a minute ahead of second place.

A strong field lined up for the 100km option - a tough circuit starting with a climb of about 3km straight out of town. It didn't take long for the bunch to split up, and a group of about a dozen got away in the strong crosswinds.

The wet roads caused a few spills on the downhills but fortunately no-one was seriously hurt.

Michael Naylor (Wellington) was able to overcome the dramas and wind to take line honours ahead of Josh Page (Hawke's Bay) and Stuart Houltham (Wellington).

Steve Stannard was the best-placed Bike Manawatu rider finishing an impressive eighth. Other notable rides came from Jonty Hapeta, Robert Stannard, and Luuk van Wagtendonk, all finishing in the top 16.

■ Feilding's professional road cyclist and two-time Olympic bronze medallist Jesse Sergent returned home this month.

He will no doubt look to enjoy his time back at home before heading off to Europe to join his Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team-mates to prepare for 2013.

Expect to see his name at the top of race result pages next year. Perhaps another crack at one of the Grand Tours is on the cards too.

■ Lance Armstrong's name has been seen frequently in the headlines lately. It's difficult to know what effect his case will have on the sport.

But on Friday long-time supporter of professional cycling, the giant Netherlands bank Rabobank, announced its withdrawal as a leading professional team sponsor. This comes shortly after Matt White lost his job as director of the newly formed Orica-GreenEdge team after admitting to doping while a team member of Armstrong's US Postal team.

I think it is fair to say the end of this saga is far from over and expect to see a few more interesting revelations!

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- Manawatu Standard

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