Dunedin cyclist Brad Evans looms as the elite men’s favourite while Kate McIIroy has the women’s leaders’ jersey in her sights as the Calder Stewart Cycling Series swings back into action with the fourth round in Nelson on Saturday after a winter break.
The Nelson Bays Motor Group Nelson Classic will see a strong elite men’s field tackle 121 kilometres in the Upper Moutere and Motueka Valley area while the masters and women’s fields will race 102 kilometres.
Riding for PKF Waterproofing Concepts Evans won the series opening round in late February but then missed the following two rounds as he was overseas racing for his Australian Continental team Drapac Pat’s Veg Cycling.
Evans has notched up a series of impressive results this year including winning the Port of Portland-Fulton Hogan Tour of the Great South Coast in July that saw him take the series lead in the Australian National Road Race series, only to be overtaken recently by Australian based fellow Kiwi Joe Cooper. He also won Cycling Timaru's two-day tour in late August, narrowly holding off Max Jones and last year’s elite Calder Stewart Cycling series winner, Tim Rush, who currently lies fifth in this year’s series.
“I've just come off a break after being back from Europe so won’t be in peak form but will aim to be up there on Saturday,” Evans said. “The Nelson round always seem to suit me with the course being quite lumpy that seems to wear everyone down.”
The elite men’s series leader is Christchurch cycling coach Paul Odlin (Tineli Invitational Team) who holds an 11 point lead over Mike Greer Homes Racing Team’s Sam Horgan but is only one point ahead of the Under 23 series leader Jake Marryatt (Blackmax Performance).
The young Team Škoda Racing lineup should feature after some tough recent racing in Australia and at the Southern School Tour (Cuddon Tour) in Blenhiem last weekend where Finn Fisher-Black won the Under 17 title and Daniel Reid won the king of the Mountain jersey.
Other riders to watch include Evan’s PKF Waterproofing Concepts team mate Ollie Jones, Max Beckert (Mike Greer Homes), Dunedin 19 year old student William Milburn (L&M Group Ricoh NZ) and Moore Stephens Markhams Canterbury Development’s Richard Lawson and his Under 19 young talents Bailey O’Donnell and Campbell Pithie.
Riding for Benchmark Homes McIIroy, who left the international triathlon circuit last year to focus on cycling, said she is looking forward to kicking off the second half of the series. “I raced last weekend in the NRS (Australian National Road Series) where a puncture lost me the leader’s jersey. I’m pretty fired up about that, so I’m looking forward to racing this weekend.”
McIIroy said it looked like a “pretty tough course with a few rollie hills” adding it is a shame women’s’ series leader Wanaka’s Mikayla Harvey (Mike Greer Homes Black) was not racing after recently returning from competing in the United States but thought there were still plenty of riders to watch out for as she looked to grab back the series leaders jersey she lost in the last round to Harvey.
“Sharlotte (Lucas) is in a good shape having raced her last weekend in Aussie. I also have great support from my team; Elyse Fraser has just come off her USA campaign with the New Zealand track endurance squad, so she will be strong support.”
Mike Greer Homes women’s team Manager Patrick Harvey said Harvey and Grace Anderson were being rested but will be “ready and firing for Hokitika” later in the month.
“We will be looking for our two Under 19 riders to make up some ground on Annamarie (Lipp, Benchmark Homes) on Saturday,” Harvey said. “Both our teams will be looking at putting their Under 19 riders in a great position making full use of our guest rider Bronwyn Macregor, who is fresh back from her medal performance at the Amateur World Champs, in the Pink team and Rebecca Kingsford, whose power and strength will definitely help out in the black team.”
Mike Greer Homes riders Ella Harris and Kate Smith should also feature along with Deborah Paine (F.A.S.T Cycling Team,) who currently lies third in the point’s standings, and the vastly experienced Nelson local, Karen Fulton (Freshchoice Richmond Pomeroys Women), who returns to the series after crashing badly in the opening round.
Wellington’s David Rowlands (Christchurch Mitsubishi) is the stand out master’s rider in New Zealand, reinforced by his recent result at the UCI Gran Fondo world championships in France where he was second in the forty five to forty nine age group, so the 45 to 49 series leader will once again go into Saturdays racing as the rider to beat across all three age group classifications.
Rowland’s Christchurch Mitsubishi team mate, Christchurch rider and 1991 Tour of Southland winner Stu Lowe, has been a good recent form winning the B grade at Cycling Timaru's two-day tour, so should also feature. Southland’s Placemakers Luke McPherson is poised to take the masters 35 to 44 classification leader’s jersey off his West Coast teammate Brent Allnut who is not racing, but will have to beat Yancey Arrington (Champion System Blue) as the two are locked in second place on 61 points.
Nelsons double winter and summer Olympian Chris Nicholson (Freshchoice Richmond Pomeroys) will be keen to build on his lead in the over 50s classification with Christchurch rider Blair Stuthridge (Protcol Mackleys Yellow) his closest threat, 14 points in arrears.
photo credit; Mike Chappell: Brad Evans (middle) returns to racing in the Calder Stewart Cycling Series for the first time since his winning effort in the opening round in February.