2016 NZ Elite Nationals

AMR Renault Racing was represented in National Championship road races on both sides of the Tasman last Sunday. Here’s how our Kiwi connection, Josh and Jason, saw things over in Napier, NZ on what was a pretty brutal day for a 180km road race…

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JOSH ALDRIDGE: “The 2016 Elite Nationals moved to the North Island for a change, after being hosted by Christchurch for five years running. It suited me not having to get on a plane [nb. Josh calls Auckland home]. What didn’t suit me so well was the weather, which started off hot and windy and finished very hot and very windy. I made the 5-hour drive to Hawkes Bay on Saturday morning feeling satisfied with my form only four months after fracturing my pelvis, but not really sure with only 5 races in the past 4 months. The course was two laps of a rural circuit followed by 8 laps of a city circuit around Napier, 180km in total. I didn’t want to spend the day chasing pro tour attacks so we decided my best chance of success was to slip into an early move, ideally without burning too many matches. Turns out I only needed one. Six riders escaped early while I spent the first 10km chilling in the bunch. The first time the pace slowed I saw an opening and followed Dion Smith up the road. We were joined by a few others to form a group of six and immediately got to work bridging the one-minute gap. We made the junction about 20km into the race to form a lead group of 12 and extended our lead to the two minute mark. We settled into a good tempo up the first climb and I rolled over the crest in 2nd place with nobody really keen to contest the KOM points. Around the 60km mark another 5 riders came across to join the party, including George Bennett – “we need to move it because Paddy is coming across!” I didn’t know if he was telling the truth but it didn’t matter. We were now about 16 strong with some serious contenders and I got the feeling our break was on a very short leash. Some decided it was time to start sitting on but I kept working, sensing we may be able to stay away. At the 2nd KOM I decided to give myself a chance for more points and went to the front. I steadily increased the pace, trying not to look like I was trying, one rider sprinted past me. 2nd again, but to a different rider. Near 100km, both of my hamstrings decided they’d had enough for the day and cramped up badly. I had to stretch and immediately lost contact with the break. I did all I could to recover before the peloton caught me, which by this stage wasn’t much bigger than the break. There were attacks left, right and centre and it was impossible to hide in the gusty conditions. It wasn’t long before I was dropped again. I had a few friends for company and we spent the next three laps in survival mode until we were pulled by the commissaires – I was disappointed not to be given the chance to finish. When I saw the riders who beat me on the first two KOMs on the side of the road it also occurred to me that they probably didn’t get anymore points either. Tuned out I finished 2nd overall in the KOM competition which was some consolation for a hard day in the saddle.”

JASON THOMASON: “Well it was a tough day out on the course in Napier, touching 30+ degrees with cross winds at times of around 40km/h. Physically and mentally I was just never in the race unfortunately. I think a combination of anxiety of racing in my first Elite Nationals, and an over-taper left me feeling extremely underdone. I tried for an early move but was unable to pick it and before long my HR was through the roof for the above reasons; hitting 170bpm when still in the neutral zone and then 190bpm every time we came up a rise once the race got going. I knew Josh was up the road so I tried to tough it out for the odd chance I may ride myself into the race, but eventually got spat out just prior to reaching the inner city finishing circuit. In the end it was one of those learning experience days, and I’m already in the process of going through the lead up with my coach to maybe do things a bit differently next time.”

PODIUM

1 – Jason Christie (Mid South Canterbury)
2 – Dion Smith (Auckland)
3 – Hamish Schreurs (Canterbury)

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