Pak'nSave Summer Series Event 4
PAKn’SAVE PNP Summer Road Series – Village Café Martinborough-Millars Circuit
Warm overcast conditions greeted riders for Event Four of the PAKn’SAVE PNP Summer Road Series, the Village Café Martinborough-Millars Circuit. Medio Fondo riders would start and finish in Martinborough and undertake one lap (50km) of this well raced circuit with Grand Fondo riders undertaking two laps (100km). The rolling nature of the course with the pinch climb up the steep side of Millars Road would favour the rouleurs if they were able to break clear of the sprinters who would be keen to keep it all together.
Tony Gestro made a welcome return in his first race back from injury this year. It seemed that brother Jason had handed the family attack baton to Tony before the race and he wasted no time going off the front at the left hander onto Hinakura Road as the bunch left Martinborough. Steve Chapman was next to go, attacking on the gradual climb at the 5km mark but was not able to close the gap to Tony and after a few km Jason Gestro attacked out of the bunch to join Chapman in the chase.
All this action was a red rag to the bunch that quickly closed down Chapman and Jason who had started working together and with the subsequent easing in pace the gap to Tony Gestro’s solo break grew to the 1 minute mark. There were a few in the chase bunch that were keen to close down Gestro’s break, none more so than Richard Henderson, winner of the previous round, who could no longer fly under the radar and found himself forced to do the majority of the work on the front. At this stage the chase group was still 30 strong with most intent to sit on and conserve energy. Gestro had a 45 second gap as the chase turned onto Millars Roadd and the
sprinters made their way to the front in an attempt to control the climbing speed and give themselves the option of slipping back on the climb without losing contact. Patrick Drysdale monstered his way to the front to be the first of the chase group over Millars, then Richard Van Lent and Chapman put the pressure on at the front on the descent in an attempt to force a split but only succeeded closing down Tony Gestro’s break.
As the race turned off Millars Road onto Ponatahi Rd the front group now numbered 20 and was likely to stay that way with a predominantly flat course and a tail wind. In spite of the low likelihood of success the Gestro brothers, Van Lent and Chapman still peppered the return to Martinborough with attacks and short lived breaks that were all chased down. There was one final attempt at a late break by Tony Gestro and Chapman at the final rise 5km from Martinborough but it came to nothing and the 20 strong bunch turned left onto Huangarua Rd for the finishing straight in Martinborough.
It was a typical bunch sprint with everyone keen to be near the front but no one keen to be on the front. Henderson found himself a little too close to the front with 500m to go and unfortunately for him Patrick “watts up” Drysdale was on his wheel. Henderson started his sprint early and Drysdale was able to launch past him for a well-deserved win followed by the fast finishing George Tompkin and Mark Coburn in third place. U19 rider Bridget Olphert was the first female finishing in the front group with Karin Van Der Walt and Rebecca Owen making up the female podium.
To paraphrase the well-used cliché, the Grand Fondo was a race of two halves. The first lap was quite settled with a few attempted breakaways by Matt Webb-Smith and Dan Waluszewski. Although causing splits in the peloton they were soon brought back. Once the 45 strong peloton had rolled through the start finish line to start the second lap it all kicked off. A mini break of four riders led by Waluszewski and Dave Weaver was quickly established and this group stayed away for a good 5km before being reeled back in. However, Waluszewski was not finished. Soon after the turn onto Longbush Road he activated the afterburners and set off on a 20km solo effort that saw him gain a 1 minute 20 gap on the peloton.
Realisation soon crept into the bunch that if Waluszewski got over the Millars climb with a reasonable lead he wouldn’t be seen again. The pace ratcheted up considerably and by the turn onto Millars Road his lead had been reduced to 45 seconds. The high pace continued on the approach to the climb and this saw the bunch start to fracture. The climb itself was conducted at a frantic pace and sounded the death knell for a number of riders. A grupetto of Sergio Gamerio Junior, Daniel Baird, Liam de Grey, Steve Wallace, Jaycee Maslunga and the ageless Malcolm Allen formed as a result.
By the turn onto Ponatahi Road it was ‘gruppo compatto’ as Waluszewski was brought back into the fold. A strong tailwind saw a fast run in to the finish with numerous attacks and counter attacks as riders tried to get away for the win. With about 10km to go Dave
Rowlands and Webb-Smith punched off the front in what turned out to the winning move. Steve Bale led the remaining bunch in a furious chase to pull them back, but despite closing the gap Rowlands and Webb-Smith were able to contest the sprint with Rowlands prevailing for the win. Waluszewski, despite his long range solo attack, lit the afterburners one last time and won the bunch sprint to take third. Kristine Ford took the win in the women’s race after a hard fought sprint against Holly Barclay (second) and Liz McKenna (third).
With a large turnout of riders and conversely with a few Meo GP riders away contesting the Ramblers Gentle Annie race, the Onslow Tarbabies were able to extend their lead to 549 points in the teams competition. Meo GP remained in second on 436 points and Scots College in third on 304 points.
Overall it was a well contested event with lots of riders having a go. Well done everyone. We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the finale on 6 April 2019 at the Tour de Hutt. The course will take in the scenic Whitemans Valley and the Hutt’s mini version of the Alpe d’Huez, Blue Mountains Road. Registration will be from 8.30 to 9.30am at The 7 Bar, 3 King Street, Upper Hutt. Please stay around afterwards for the prize giving and refreshments.
Craig Chambers and Steve Chapman