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Benchmark Homes series opener features top riders

Benchmark Homes series opener features top riders

27 February 2014

Saturday’s opening round of the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series in Oxford, North Canterbury features Sam Horgan, Michael Vink and Dan Barry who are fresh from competing in Australia for their Budget Forklifts continental team and World Pro Tour rider George Bennett.

Christchurch cyclists Horgan and Vink lead a strong Scotty Browns cycling team while Bennett will ride for Nelson based Tasman Wheelers.

Horgan, who is the series defending champion, says he is ‘excited to be back racing in New Zealand’ after Victoria’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour and last week’s Oceania Championships in Queensland.

“We have a really strong team with a number of options to go for the win,” Horgan said. “It’s a great mix of youth and experience and although I’m the defending champion I’d be just as happy to see one of the young guys do well too.”

Horgan said he was hopeful of some wind to make the undulating 159 kilometre course harder and was mindful of a number of riders that could feature, including Bennett and his Budget Forklifts teammate Dan Barry who is also riding for Tasman Wheelers.

The Tasman Wheelers team also features double Olympian Chris Nicholson who suffered a potentially fatal cardiac arrest only five months ago. Forty six year old Nicholson, who has represented New Zealand as a cyclist and speed skater at summer and winter Olympics, has had an impressive comeback winning the last two club races in Nelson that included beating Bennett last weekend.

The elite men’s field features most of the country’s leading cyclists that are not overseas, including former national champion James Williamson and the mountains classification winner at January’s New Zealand Cycle Classic Scott Thomas, both riding for L & M Group Ricoh and Southland based H & J’s Outdoor World Avanti Plus’s Cameron Karwowski and Matthew Zenovich, who became the first Southlander since 2003 to win a stage on the Tour of Southland last year.

There are a number of exciting under 23 riders that could make their presence felt, including Scotty Browns Racing’s Keagan Girdlestone and Daniel Whitehouse, Ben Johnstone (Benchmark Homes), Max Beckett (Breads of Europe All About Plumbing) and Adam Bull (Modus-Homestyle).

Organisers say are very happy with the interest and growth for this year’s series, especially in the master’s categories which has attracted the largest field with over 100 riders competing in three age group categories.

“While the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series elite men’s grade is well established and features the country’s leading domestic based riders we are pretty excited about the enthusiasm surrounding the men’s masters grades, which sees a new over 50 year old category joining the 35 to 44 and 45 to 49 year old age groups,” series director Simon Hollander said.

“There are a number of guys with lots of racing experience who haven’t pinned a number on for quite a few years that are back and named in various teams. It’s going to be very interesting to see these guys mix it up with those that have been regularly racing in recent years; there’s going to be some classic match ups and some very exciting racing.”

Last year’s overall master’s series winner Brad McFarlane has a very strong looking Team Thule Racing roster that includes former pro’s Matthew Talbot, Ian Smallman and Jorg Engelbrecht.

New master’s team Armstrong Subaru features former New Zealand track and road cyclist representative and world master’s record holder on the track for the individual pursuit, Reon Park, who has proven performers Glen Rewi, Darrell Kircher and Glenn Gould backing him up.

Quick finisher Justin Sims (Armitage Williams) should also feature as will Thule’s Scott McDonnell, Wayne Smythe (Sport Canterbury Racing), Dean Fulton, Warwick Spence and Brendon Mathews (Tasman Wheelers), Velocity’s Mike Sleeman and Ron Pithie and Warmup Cycling Team’s Lee Johnstone and Darron Burns.

Reta Trotman, who rides for German pro team MaxxSOLAR, leads the women’s entries. Trotman, who was third in last week’s Oceania Time Trial champs and won bronze medals in last month’s elite national championships road race and time trial, will ride for the Otago based Cycle World Fairweathers team that includes Emma Sutherland and Georgia Catterick.

Sharlotte Lucas (Benchmark Homes) and Karen Fulton (Tasman Wheelers) loom as Trotman’s biggest threats as she uses the opening two rounds of the Benchmark series to help her prepare for heading back to Europe in April.

Timetable Round 1
Oxford Grand Prix - 1st March 2014
159 km Elite Men
120 km Masters and Women

8:30 am: Registration begins -Team manager to pick up team packs
9:00 am: Managers meeting with Race Director and Chief Commissaire
9:00 am: Riders sign in on official sign in sheets
9:45 am: Race Briefing on Line with Chief Commissaire
10:00 am: Official Start
10:00 am: Elite Men Start
10:05 am: Masters Start
10:10 am: Women Start

Approx Finish Times
1:05 pm -1:10 pm: Masters Finish
1:25 pm -1:30 pm: Women Finish
1:45 pm -2:00 pm: Elite Men Finish

2:30 pm Prize Giving at Seagars at Oxford
78 Main Street, Oxford

Round 2: 13th April 2014
Bluespur Classic, Hokitika

Round 3: 10th May 2014
Parry Field Lawyers - Ocean Ridge Classic
Hanmer Springs - Kaikoura, Canterbury

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