This years edition of the Rice Mountain Classic was run on Sunday 11 December.
First held in 1996 the race honours the contribution to the club by Alan Rice. The Rice Mountain is without question one of the regions highest prized titles, being raced over extremely demanding courses, it has always found worthy winners.
Past winners include Jeremy Vennell, Jeremy Yates, Scott Lyttle, Antosh Kowalewski, Hayden Roulston, Andy Hagan, Dave Rowlands, Wayne Hiscock and Brent Backhouse. The womens trophy has been won by Serena Sheriden, Tracey Best, Catherine Dunn, Susie Wood (4 time winner) and Nadene Boyle.
A small but quality field of 17 riders started this year’s (A grade) Rice Mountain Classic over a brutal course of 110km with 2500 metres of climbing. It was the same course used in 2014 that saw PNP stalwart Dave Rowlands get the better of rising star and then 16 year old NZ rep Robert Stannard. Both riders were in the field this year along with some of the best local riders all expecting a tough day at the office.
The pace was solid from the start with the majority of the field staying intact up the west side of Kourarau. Tristan Thomas and Matt Webb-Smith slipped away shortly after and were joined by Calvin Standrill, these three worked well together and lead by around 30 secs at the Limeworks hill turnaround. The break was reeled in by a Robert Standard surge up a climb on the return trip from Limeworks, the surge resulted in 6 riders going clear for around 5km before 7 riders joined them.
The 13 riders stayed together at all the way to the Te Wharau Rd turnaround despite the crosswind and a number of smaller splits. After the turnaround things started to heat up on the climbs back to Kourarau. Robert Stannard turned up the heat and by the time the leaders got to ‘The Wall’ there were just five remaining. Stannard, Dave Rowlands. Andy Hagen, Liam Sherlock and Anthony Nalder. But not content to wait until the final climb up Admirals Robert Stannard unleashed up ‘The Wall’ and one by one all 4 of his opponents dropped off. ‘The Wall’ is a brute of a climb that must be 15% gradient for close to 2kms, at the summit Stannard had about a minute on Andy Hagan who was 30 odd seconds in front of Liam Sherlock with Dave Rowland close behind.
Not content to sit on this lead Stannard kept pushing all the way to Admirals Hill and kept extending his lead to the finish line for a convincing victory. Behind him the race was in tatters with the next 8 riders all riding solo to the finish. Andy Hagan stayed strong to the end and finished a creditable second some 3 minutes down with Dave Rowland powering through to take third place. The rest of the field filed through the finish with minutes not seconds between them all pleased to have finished and hopefully with some sense of accomplishment having completed the toughest club race of the season.
The legend of the Rice Mountain Classic lives on.
25 riders started in B grade with a good mix of young riders keen to show up the old (wiser) men.
The course, weather and wind meant the field stayed together for much of the race as riders saved themselves for the final couple of climbs. Several brave breaks were attempted by some of the younger riders, but nothing able to stick as the main bunch ensured no one established any significant lead.
The undulating hills out and back on Te Wharau Rd and the second last climb up the back side of Te Wharau Rd saw the field finally split up with riders dropping off the peloton at regular intervals and the pace remaining solid.
Ten riders started together at the base of the final climb up Admirals Hill. However, it did not take long for the field to split up with five riders heading off up the road stretching the field out. Rob Kilvington and several of the younger (lighter) riders battled it out on the upper part of the climb with Rob Kilvington (older, wiser) narrowly winning from Matt Stevens, with Henry Levett a short distance back.
C & D Grade
The C & D grade riders tackled a shorter less demanding course, but still challenging with ca. 1700 metres of climbing. Taking line honours on the day was Pete Wilkinson from Philip Sutherland in second and Nigel Mehta-Wilson in third.
First woman was Natalie Hardaker, (also 4th overall on the 65 km course) followed by Ione Johnson and Diana Borman in the minor places.