Otago University student Brad Evans had his best win on the road in the opening round of the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling series in Oxford, winning a sprint finish from Bradley Tuhi and Joseph Chapman.
Evans who is fresh from an intensive race programme on the track, including the elite track nationals three weeks ago, paid tribute to his Fitlab team for playing a major role chasing down the break and keeping him sheltered in the peloton during the 159-kilometre elite race. He won in 3hr 46min..
"I was a little unsure about my form after so much time on the track," Evans, who won the series under-23 competition last year, said.
"But the boys rode so well on the front, taking a lot of major turns to keep the break in check; I had to make sure I paid them back. Although I won the Nelson round last year, it was a top end field today so I was really pleased to get up for the win which is definitely my best result on the road."
Evans is still in the under 23- category so the under-23 series jersey for the next round in Nelson will be worn by Tuhi. Chapman will wear the elite leader's jersey.
The break of Robin Reid (Scotty Browns-Vision Systems), Sam Steele (L&M Group), Matt Zenovich (H&J Outdoor World) and Kyle Wood (Calder Stewart) was caught with 30 kilometres to go. There was then a series of attacks which were shut down by several teams with the bunch all coming back together over the last 10 kilometres.
"It was really fast and uneven over the last 20 kilometres once the break was caught," Evans said.
"I was pleased we managed to shut attacks down and by the time we reached the top of German Rd it was all back together."
Benchmark Homes Sharlotte Lucas also picked up the best result of her career outsprinting Samantha Michael (Soul Star Racing) to win the 117km women's race in 3hr 27min. The two riders managed to slip away from the women's field with 20km to go and worked well to slowly extend their lead to finish almost four minutes clear of Olympian Lauren Ellis (Benchmark Homes) who won the bunch sprint to claim third ahead of Karen Fulton (Soul Star Racing).
Lee Johnstone (Warmup Cycling) won a large frantic bunch sprint to win the 117km masters race, holding off Justin Sims (Armitage Williams) and Glen Rewi (Kiwi Style Bike Tours), winning in 2hr 55min.
Dunedin's Mark Spessot (Cycle World) was sixth, just behind Johnstone, but the first over-45 master, so he claimed the series leader's jersey for that group.
Johnstone said he went a little earlier than he intended but that it had gone exactly as he hoped.
"It was exactly as I visualised it," he said
"I had hoped it would come down to a bunch sprint, and it did, but only after a few of my team-mates and a few others drove things really hard on the front to bring a dangerous break back."
- © Fairfax NZ News