Nelson cyclist Robbie Hill takes a corner during the race around the Cathedral on Sunday. Insert: Cyclists race past the Cathedral. Photos: Phillip Rollo.

Nelson cycle fest takes off

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The Konica Minolta Nelson Cycle hit the ground round with two of its key events being staged on the event’s first weekend.

The festival began in the Moutere Hills for round six of the Benchmark Series with two Nelson riders ending Saturday with the leader’s jersey. The race started from Lower Moutere School.

A break was firmly established towards the end of the first lap of the race with most of the teams represented in it, including a strong team from Cycling Otago. The Tasman Wheelers were forced to chase for most of the race to protect the general classification hopes of team leader Chris Nicholson. The third time the race headed down the Motueka Valley Highway the main field had nearly caught the breakaway group but failed to maintain the momentum with the race splitting up in the closing kilometres as a result of the trying conditions. Brad Evans won a close fought sprint finish from Brad Tuhi of the Homestyle Test Team with Darcy Ellerm-Norton of Benchmark Homes Cycling Team third. Chris has moved into the leader’s jersey with Brad, who races for Cycling Otago, picking up the Under-23 jersey and Mark Spessot of Cycle World taking the master’s jersey.

The women’s race set off 20 minutes after the men and was slow to get started. Some aggressive riding from Karen Fulton over the Waiwheros managed to form a break of four. Eloise Fry, who was a last minute ring in for the Otago team, initially tried to close the gap but the group managed to stay away. On the final lap Reta Trotman of Cycling Otago attacked several times over the Waiwheros dropping Karen. There was a close sprint for the finish with Reta just beating Benchmark Homes duo of Sharlotte Lucas and Hayley Mercer. Karen finished fourth and still retains the leader’s jersey. The second key event of the Nelson Cycle Festival was one of its more unique races with cyclists rounding the Nelson Cathedral for the Nelson City Criterium. Weather conditions were a vast improvement from Saturday and the sunshine and the special course drew a good group of spectators throughout the afternoon. A number of cyclists followed up from the Benchmark Series and it was Ian Smallman who took first place in the men’s A grade race followed by Kieran Hambrook and Brad Tuhi. Other grade winners included Felix Laufkotter in the opening B grade race, Wayne Pool in the C grade event, Ethan Batt in D grade and Mike Yate in the E grade race. Shaane Fulton was first place in the junior event.

For more on the festival visit www.nelsoncyclefest.co.nz.