After a winter that included racing in Canada and the United States Sam Horgan is the favourite to build on his elite series lead in round four of the Calder Stewart Cycling Series, the Kings Electrical Ashburton Classic, being held on Saturday.
Riding in the strong Mike Greer Homes Racing team on Saturday, Horgan raced for his Australian Continental team Budget Forklifts in Canada’s Tour de Saguenaey in late May and then in June’s Tour de Beauce, both UCI 2.2 events, as well as the Philly Classic in the US, a UCI 1.1 event.
Horgan said it was a ‘bonus’ to wear the elite series leaders jersey, and it would be good for his team to retain it, but the major goal for the Mike Greer Homes Racing team on Saturday was a third successive win.
“The boys have all been putting in the hard yards over winter and we have several strong options for Saturday,” he said. One of those options includes last year’s Ashburton round winner, former Commonwealth Games track medallist Jason Allen.
After a winter break of three months Saturday’s fourth round of the series will see many of the riders at different levels of fitness with some in the elite race like Horgan, TotalPOS Solutions Cycling Team’s Daniel Whitehouse and Scott Thomas (Modus Construct Cycling Team) having had some racing overseas while Tom Hubbard (Breads of Europe), who lies second on the elite points table, just three point behind Horgan, hoping he has some form after no racing since May.
“I’m really excited to get back into racing after a winter break,” Hubbard said. “But I’m really unsure about my form as I’ve had, like lots of other guys, a good break.”
Hubbard’s Breads of Europe team holds a commanding lead in the elite team’s classification with team mate, Southlander Luke McPherson, also highly placed in the individual standings, lying fourth behind Nelson’s Robin Reid (Freshchoice/Pomeroys).
“There’s no doubt Sam is the rider to beat on Saturday,” Hubbard said. “But we have two options to challenge for the individual overall series and we are keen to defend our teams lead.”
Horgan soloed to an impressive win in round three of the Series, the CYB Construction Hokitika Classic, on the South Island’s West Coast in May to make in two wins from two starts and claim the overall lead.
West Coast rider Brent Allnut (Team Thule Cycling) won the masters race on the West Coast to also claim the series 35 to 44 age group series lead. Allnut faces challenges on Saturday from second placed Justin Stott (Placemakers) from Dunedin, who won on this course last year and only lies four points behind Allnut.
Allnut’s team mate’s Matthew Talbot and Scott McDonnell are third and fourth in the point’s standings setting up an intriguing battle for points in the 35 to 44 age group classification with three rounds of racing left.
A series of consistent finishes sees Darrell Kircher (Christchurch Mitsubishi) leading the series 44 to 49 age group with Dunedin’s Paul Gough (Cycle World Masters), Team Thule Cycling’s Blair Stuthridge and Neil Sutherland, Placemakers Garry Smith and High 5 CFO’s Steve Scott and Darron Burns all likely to feature while third placed Lee Johnstone (Placemakers), who won the 44 to 49 age group series last year, is a nonstarter after recent illness.
The over 50’s classification will change hands on Saturday with current leader Brent Marryatt (Corsa Zona Rossa) not on the start line after recent heart surgery, opening the way for Chris Harvey (Cycle World Masters), Geoff Searle (Corsa Zona Rossa) and Dad’s Army’s Craig Lange and Ron Pithie to stake a claim for the leaders jersey.
Saturday’s women’s field of 41 riders is the largest the series has seen. Nelson’s Karen Fulton (Freshchoice Richmond) leads the standings without recording a win, something the experienced rider from Nelson will be keen to rectify on Saturday.
Hawkes Bay’s Amanda Jamieson won her first round of the series to move into second place and claim the Under 19 leaders jersey after a dominate display from her Black Magic team on the West Coast in May. The Black Magic team will have benefited from the experience of racing in May in the Battle On the Border criterium, part of Australia’s National Road Series.
Black Magic is fielding two teams and has a strong look with Wanaka’s Mikayla Harvey, who has been selected to represent New Zealand at the Junior Road Cycling World Championships in the Unites States in September, Georgia Vessey and the experienced Sophie Williamson all joining Jamieson on the start line and keen to protect their team lead and Under 19 leaders jersey.
Cycleworld Fairweather’s Georgia Catterick will also be looking for some tough racing after being named alongside Harvey in the national Under 19 World Championship Road team.
Sharlotte Lucus (Benchmark Homes) has struggled to find the form that saw her win three stages to claim last year’s series title, but is still within striking distance of the leader’s jersey lying fourth behind team mate Amy Brazier and Jamieson.
Round two winner Vidasana Thule’s Jeannie Blakemore should also make her presence felt on the largely flat course that could see coastal winds challenge the riders.
The elite men do five laps of the 26 kilometre circuit to race 133 kilometres while the masters and women will race over four laps completing 107 kilometres.