New kit aids Wheelers' strategy

Members of the Tasman Wheelers Benchmark cycle racing squad have gathered to show off their new kit and to run a quick debrief on last Sunday's event in Hokitika, the second of six rounds being held this year.

Generous sponsorship from Fresh Choice, Pomeroy's Coffee, Tineli cycle clothing, and Woollaston Estates has made it possible for the club to update its old kit, one unchanged for the last 10 or so years.

The new kit has met with general approval as being distinctive enough to stand out in the large fields that attend the Benchmark elite series races: the master field alone has up to 115 riders across 14 teams.

"When riding along narrow country roads, handlebar to handlebar, four or five across, it's nice to be able to just take a quick glance behind you and catch the placement of your team-mates within the bunch," says Dean Fulton.

Riders certainly needed their wits about them, as well as a degree of good luck. Crashes occurred last weekend - chilly temperatures and wet roads didn't help, nor did the constant jostling for position as teams sent riders forward to the front of the peloton to control the pace or organise breaks.

Getting away in a sustained break was going to be a chore - the 130km course was predominantly flat with only a few "power climbs"; climbs short enough for the muscly sprinters to be able to maintain contact with the leaner specialist climbers.

As a result, pre-race discussions were centred on the likelihood of the race being decided by a bunch sprint for the line, or more accurately a sprint for the last turn 400 metres before the line, as, if teams hadn't got their riders in position by then, it was going to be too late for riders to advance any more than one or two spots.

Elite Men's and Tasman Wheelers rider Daniel Barry outsprinted Brad Evans and Round 1 winner Cameron Karwowski to take second overall in a mass bunch sprint, from a large group that had been desperately trying to reel in runaway winner Alex McGregor - a rider who impressively soloed the last 20km of the course to narrowly claim his first place by 7 seconds.

In the masters field, a crash on the final 500-metre stretch interrupted what was up until that point an excellent lead out, with Tasman Wheelers riders Andy McDonald, Chris Heywood and then Mike Anderson doing much good work to advance their team's leader, Dean Fulton, to the right place. Fulton still managed to work his way to the front, partly by being able to bravely take the inside line on his opponents into the final turn, but, with his legs cramping, he had to give up several spots, and team-mate Brendon Matthews among those overtaking him, took fifth place.

Wheelers rider Karen Fulton rode well to get away in a breakaway group in the elite women's field, crossing the finish line in fourth place, one up on her finishing position in the opening round. She now sits third equal overall in the series.

The next Benchmark round takes place on May 10, with a race that stretches from Hanmer to Kaikoura, before the series takes a break over the winter months.

The Nelson Mail