Former National Champion Gordon McCauley is on the start line of his first elite race since breaking his leg in February, riding in Saturday’s fourth round of the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series near Ashburton.
The 42 year old Auckland based rider broke his right leg and smashed his left kneecap after hitting a fence during a race, by far the worst injuries he had ever suffered in a 27-year race career. Eligible to race in the master’s grade, McCauley is riding for the Benchmark Homes team in the elite men’s grade, saying he is focused on building up to ride a record-equalling twenty second Tour of Southland in November.
“I’m so far ahead of where I was told I’d be,” he said. “I’m stoked to be proving the early predictions wrong and I’m really looking forward to testing myself on Saturday to see where I’m at. I certainly don’t plan on being pack fill; I’m coming to race and it’s going to be the same in Southland.”
McCauley will have a young Benchmark Homes team to race with, including Ben Johnstone, Daniel Neumann and Jake Marryatt and the experienced Brad Tuhi and Ben Robertson.
Brad Evans from Team Calder Stewart is racing overseas so won’t be able to defend his elite men’s lead with sixth placed Dan Barry (Tasman Wheelers) the highest place elite rider on the start line, leaving the field quite open.
Ian Smallman (Team Thule Racing) will be keen to build on his lead over Scott Wilder (Dad’s Army) in the masters 35-44 grade while his Thule teammate Blair Stuthridge is locked in the lead in the masters 45-49 classification with Dunedin’s Paul Gough (Cycle World) with Warmup Cycling’s Lee Johnstone only a handful of points behind.
Thule complete their domination of the masters racing with Jorg Engelbrecht leading the over 50 masters men while Elyse Fraser (Benchmark Homes) has a commanding lead in the women’s competition but will face resistance from Nelson’s Karen Fulton (Tasman Wheelers), Georgia Catterick from Dunedin (Cycle World Fairweathers), Invercargill based Renee Wootton and Christchurch rider Maddi Campbell (H&J's Outdoor World Avanti+) and potentially her own team mates Sharlotte Lucas and Haley Mercer.
The flat course should provide some fast racing as riders across the three competitions get rid of any winter cobwebs. Coastal or Nor west winds could play a role in splitting the fields up and the circuit is well sealed but some of the roads are quite narrow and a number of turns are tight.
The elite men’s field of 63 will complete five laps of the 26 kilometre circuit for 133 kilometres of racing while the 85 riders in the master’s men field and the 29 women will do four laps covering 107 kilometres.
CAPTION: Dylan Kennett (Breads of Europe) winner of round three elite round of the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series that finished in Kaikorua in May. Photo credit: rickoshayphotos