Pro rider Christie shows class
Amid over 2000 amateur riders it was professional road cyclist Jason Christie who took out the main honours when the 11th Forrest GrapeRide was raced on Saturday.
The Speed Bunnies race is the main draw for competitive cyclists and this year it was action packed around the 101km course that starts and finishes at Forrest Estate in Renwick.
Christie, a member of Avanti Racing Team, claimed the men's title by 5sec from Sam Horgan of Christchurch. Sixteen year-old Manawatu rising star Michaela Drummond took out the women's race after Marlborough rider Georgia Catterick's late surge for the lead was denied by bunch riders for the second year in a row.
Christie showed composure and confidence as he and Horgan reeled in a lead bunch that had whittled to two as they went through Okaramio, around 10km from the finish line.
"There was two of them [the lead bunch] left," Christie explained soon after crossing the line arms raised in triumph. "One guy attacked the other one and we ended up bringing one back. There ended up being one guy up there and we weren't too worried. One guy against a peloton, 10k to go, only a 30 second lead, he was never going to last."
Christie and Horgan made a move, caught the leader and then, around 3km from the finish, Christie attacked and could not be pulled back.
The win came in a time of two hours, 25 minutes and 26 seconds as the 24 year-old from Ashburton crossed ahead of Horgan, who had Thomas Hubbard, also of Christchurch, on his wheel.
In the women's race, young guns Drummond and Catterick battled from start to finish with Drummond eventually getting the better of the duel at the last moment. The New Zealand junior track cycling team member sneaked past 17 year-old Catterick as they entered the tight winding road in the Forrest vineyard.
Catterick attempted to make a passing move on the final corner, 50m from the finish line, but many of the 42km Taster riders clogged proceedings.
"I knew the last part," a thoroughly-delighted Drummond said afterwards. "My coach, because he lives in Blenheim, he told me about the last part and he said, 'whoever is in front there is going to get it'."
Mark Lucas coaches the Year 13 Palmerston North Girls High School student.
For Catterick it was the second year in a row riders from other sections of the event had prevented her making a strong finish and said afterwards she was "annoyed" it had happened again and ideally would like the road to be clear of such riders in the pivotal stages.
Amy Brazier of Christchurch took advantage of Catterick's failed shot for the win, pipping her for second place as the group of around a dozen riders crossed the line. Brazier also placed second in the inaugural Marlborough Sounds Half [Ironman] multisport race in February.
Drummond said it was Catterick she saw as her main rival though, and the pair led the women's race for much of the way.
"We were battling all the way. Up the hill I was just trying to stick on her because she is really good on the hills. I would look for her and she was one person I was aiming for because I have raced her before at local tours and stuff."
The course, as in previous years, ran from Renwick to Blenheim via Old Renwick Rd, to Picton via SH1, along the Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock and back to Forrest Estate for the finish.
A brief period of heavy rain made the road slippery along the latter stages of the Queen Charlotte Drive, but it was a tumble much earlier in the race that took down several of the mens Speed Bunnies and caused a few scrapes.
The Magnum section, two laps of the course for a total of 202km, was won by Reon Nolan from Christchurch and Jess Hughes from Nelson in the men's and women's sections respectively.
- The Marlborough Express