James Oram won the combined elite men’s road race title at the New Zealand National Championships on Sunday, taking victory in South Waikato as he sprinted to the line alongside teammate Ryan Christensen.
It was then 21 year old Logan Currie, another member of the dominant Bolton Equities Black Spoke squad, who came third in the 178.2km combined men’s elite/under 23 race and as a result secured the U23 title.
“The team was the key to the victory today,” said Oram in a Cycling New Zealand media release. “The boys rode perfectly. We had a plan to have numbers in the moves. The boys were extremely strong.”
“Coming into the final sprint we couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. Currie coming across in that last lap was super-human, and then [to] take the under-23 as well. One-two-three across the line and the under-23 and elite jerseys for Bolton Equities – if you had said that at the start of the day we would have been laughing.”
The race played out on an undulating circuit, with the field taking on seven laps of the course and accumulating 2,347m of vertical ascent by the final pass of the Tokoroa finish line.
The last three riders to wear the silver fern were all on the start line – James Fouche, George Bennett (UAE Team Emirates) and Shane Archbold (Bora-Hansgrohe) – and while the former two as WorldTour professionals may on the face of it have seemed like obvious favourites both were flying solo in a field dominated by Fouche’s Bolton Equities Black Spoke team.
This season the squad became New Zealand’s first ProTeam and had 12 riders in the road race, three of them in the U23 category, meaning that the team which had already taken out the elite and U23 men’s time trial titles with Aaron Gate and Logan Currie would always be seen as the ones to beat, even though Fouche was coming in a little unwell.
The race, located in the wide open landscape of the South Waikota district in the heart of the north island, started at 10am and with cyclone Gabrielle looming off the coast to the north there may have been some thoughts turning to 2022, when the remnants of cyclone Dovi lead to a shortening of the race. However, while temperatures had cooled and rain was threatening, the warned of heavy rain and strong winds were fortunately still a day away.
The inevitable splits came on the hilly terrain, and while the field was stretched and split and the attacks rolled on the first lap it was only by the end of the second loop, according to live timing, that a solid break had formed with nine riders out the front with a gap of around more than a minute to the peloton.
There were three riders from Bolton Equities Black Spoke, Fouche, Tom Sexton and Ryan Christensen along with Kees Duyvesteyn (MitoQ-NZ Cycling Project) and his teammate Oliver Grave, Cameron Jones (Rushvelo-Ridley) along with three U23 riders, Matthew Wilson (Rushvelo-Ridley), Blake Bailey (Te Awamutu Sports Cycling) and Reuben Thompson (Groupama-FDJ).
There were some fluctuations in the group with Duyvesteyn and Jones dropping away and two more Bolton Equities riders bridging in James Oram and Luke Mudgway coming across along with Ari Scott (Couplands Booths Group) so there was a group of ten out the front and at times the gap stretched over four minutes.
The peloton pushed the pace to try and force a regrouping, with George Bennett (UAE Team Emirates) putting in a powerful effort to try and close the gap. However while it was reduced to about 90 seconds the lead group responded and held their position out front so they could decided the podium from among them. Although at least one rider who took advantage of the narrowed gap to jump across and that was yet another Black Spoke rider, in the form of U23 time trial winner Currie.
The lead group split in the final lap, with Oram and Christen sprinting for victory more than 20 seconds ahead of Currie, who beat fellow U23 rider Reuben Thompson (Groupama-FDJ) to the line to secure the U23 title. The next group of two was Tom Sexton (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) and Oliver Grave (MitoQ-NZ Cycling Project), with Sexton winning that battle to the line and making the elite podium an all Bolton Equities affair while Grave’s sixth place was enough to secure him third spot on the U23 podium.
The race was the final event in the New Zealand National Championships for 2023, with U23 rider Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep) having won the combined women’s road race on Saturday ahead of elite rider Georgia Williams (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) while on Friday Williams and Wollaston took out the elite and U23 women’s time trial titles.