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Bennett Leads Men’s Entries In Elite Cycling Series Opener

Bennett Leads Men’s Entries In Elite Cycling Series Opener

28 February 2013

World Pro Tour rider George Bennett leads the men’s elite entries for Saturday’s opening round of the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series in Oxford, North Canterbury.

Bennett, who rides for Radioshack Leopard Trek on the pro tour, is riding for a strong Scotty Browns Vision Systems team that also includes national under 23 Time Trial champion and BikeNZ men's track endurance squad member Michael Vink, 2004 Olympian Robin Reid, former national team member Jason Allan and Canterbury senior Road Racing champion Reon Nolan.

Vink showed he is in good form after a dominating ride in last weekend’s Riccarton Clinic 108 kilometre Main Divide Race, winning comfortably after riding away from the field up Porters Pass to ride 65 kilometres solo to the finish in an impressive display of strength.

Bennett said Saturday was a great chance to “pin a number on and get a good race in” before he heads to Europe next week to join his Pro Team for what he says will be a very busy three months of racing.

“It’s a crazy schedule coming up,” he said. “It’s been great to take a bit of a break after the Tour Down Under and Nationals to get some good training in rather that suffer in bad weather in Europe. Saturday is a good chance to get used to racing in a bunch again, and it’s still a really hard race and it’s a great way to break up my recent training.”

Former Subway Pro Cycling team member Sam Horgan, who now rides for Australian Continental team Budget Forklifts, will lead the Benchmark Homes Cycling team and should find good support from Richard Lawson who rode well to finish second to Vink last Saturday. Horgan won the overall Benchmark Series in 2011.

Another former series winner Daniel Barry should feature leading the L & M Group Racing Team that includes Tour of Southland King of the Mountains winner Jo Chapman, his experienced brother Anthony and the strong Nick Lovegrove from Auckland.

Wellington’s Joe Cooper rides for Australian UCI Continental team Genesys Wealth Advisors will be keen to make his presence felt. Cooper, who is the current elite national time trial champion, leads a young Breads of Europe All About Plumbing team.

There are a number of young New Zealand representative riders making their series debut, including Breads of Europe All About Plumbing’s Connor Stead and Homestyle’s Ben Johnstone.

London Olympian, Commonwealth and World Championships medallist Lauren Ellis (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team) and Nelson’s Karen Fulton (Soul Star Racing) lead the women’s entries. Both riders have tasted success in the series in the past and how well they are supported by their teams could play a role in success on Saturday.

Sharlotte Lucas, Julia Grant, Charlotte Hand and Tracy Clark will ensure things are tough for Ellis and Fulton.

There is an impressive range of talent and strength across a number of teams for the largest field on Saturday, the master’s race, with riders contesting a leader’s jersey in the over 35 and over 45 categories.

Well established teams Thule, Velocity, Cycle World and Warmup are being joined by a number of new teams representing a wide range of products and business’s. New teams include Kiwi Style Bike Tours, Armitage Williams, High 5 CFO, Team Tineli Masters, Team Calder Stewart Road Masters and Dad’s Army.

Dunedin’s Mark Spessot (Cycle World) has an impressive track record of results in the Benchmark Series which includes winning the masters jersey in the past when the elite and masters riders rode together in the same race.

Spessot is racing in the over 45 age group and will face competition from Blair Stuthridge and Neil Sutherland from Thule, Chris Brooks and Richard Scott (Kiwistyle), Ron Puthie and Dave Sullivan (Velocity), Darrell Kircher (High 5 CFO), David Lawson, Jeremy Hatfield and Greg Thompson (Dad’s Army), Geoff Keogh from Cycling Otago and Darron Burns (Warmup).

Scott McDonnell (Thule) won the masters jersey in the series two years ago and will be a leading contender for honours for the 35 to 44 jersey on Saturday. Other riders to feature in this age group should be Brad McFarlane (Thule), Stu Lowe (High 5 CFO), Nigel Pink and Tony Gibson from Velocity, Brain Grant and Craig Lawn (Team Tineli Masters), Warmup Cycling’s Lee Johnstone, Wayne Smythe and Alan Bush and Glenn Gould from Team Calder Stewart Road Masters.

Compulsory photo credit; Bruce Wilson Photography


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