McNeill first home but Cup goes to Bennett

By Dan Richards

Waikato's Ross McNeill won the race, but local man Kerry Bennett claimed the silverware after second place in Saturday's 70km Garthorne Cup race.

McNeill, whose partner lives in Wanganui, competes here regularly but as a non-club member was ineligible for the trophy.

The time-honoured event was run under handicapped conditions over a course which saw the 22 A-grade competitors race from Durie Hill School out to the Turakina Valley Rd turn off and back.

A steady crosswind hampered the riders both ways and intermittent drizzle added to the challenge.

First away was veteran Brian Scott, who has an outstanding record in the event including four previous wins the earliest in 1967.

He was accompanied by young visiting Englishman Matt Lowes from Weymouth, who is part way through a cycle tour of the country and was keen to experience New Zealand racing.

However these two were picked up after 20km by an 8-strong chase group which included both Bennett and McNeill.

They had plenty of experience in the bunch, with John and Clint Black, Allan Luff, Gary Winchcombe, Dan Richards and Graham Cox all contributing to the group effort.

Further back recent K2 competitors Shaun Tucker and Martin Hogan were putting in some decent turns on the front of the next group, ably assisted by Paul Forrest, Louis Hazlehurst and Cassie Cameron although the latter retired from the race further on.

Behind them the out-numbered three-strong break of Richard Stanton, Steve Cowan and Brian Scrimshaw were struggling to make much headway in the conditions, although Cowan in particular was going very strongly.

The five scratch riders further back had a big handicap to overcome, but they were flying as they hunted those ahead.

Pat Johnstone, clearly back to his form of old, was putting in another powerhouse performance while Bevan Cheatley was going well with good contributions from Adrian Petit, Phil Groves and Brent Bismark.

They eventually caught Stanton, Scrimshaw and Cowan at the Mangamahu Bridge turnoff after about 60km, but most of the field was still in front of them.

Up front, the lead group had stayed intact until the day's main challenge the ascent of Reid's Hill.

Lightweight veterans John Black and Allan Luff slipped clear of their younger rivals and created a gap which took some strong work from Bennett and McNeill to close some 5km later at Fordell.

With about 14km left to travel the newly-formed quartet realised victory was within reach and knuckled down to their work.

Behind them the usual carnage had occurred on Reid's Hill.

Tucker, Hazlehurst and Forrest managed to stay together, but further back Cheatley had attacked hard on the climb and Johnstone leapt across the gap to join him, with Groves clinging on as well.

Meanwhile the leading four were doing a great job of holding off the challengers and were still clear with a kilometre to the finish.

At that point McNeill attacked and although his companions were coming back at him on the line, he had enough in the tank to hold off Bennett's late lunge to take the win.

Luff, fresh from winning the Masters title at the Wanganui Sports Awards, was a close up third with John Black fourth.

Forty-five seconds later Clint Black led home a group of three to take a solid fifth placing from Dan Richards, sixth, and Brian Scott, seventh.

Pat Johnstone headed in the remnants of the scratch group further back in thirteenth placing, but his effort was enough to secure fastest time of the day (1.55.17) from Groves and Cheatley.

Five keen B-graders started together and raced over the same 70km out and back course as the A-graders.

It was the up and coming Boaz Darby who skipped away up Reid's Hill and held on well for a 24-second win.

Chasing him hard all day to nail down second was Erwin Scott, with a gap to Rob Manson, third.

The C-graders raced to the top of Reid's Hill and return the 34km journey a longer contest than usual for them.

Returning rider Cherie Prince showed she has retained some of the talent that saw her star in junior ranks by hanging on for a hard fought win.

Prince led for most of the return leg and simply refused to yield as her rivals chased her hard.

She hung on for a two-second win over the charging Zeb Walker (fastest time 57.25) just clear of Craig Bright, who is compiling a very consistent form line, in third place.

Dean Blackwell from the middle of the handicap battled well for fourth, with Paul Darby, fifth, and Dennis Squires, sixth.



A Grade, Garthorne Cup 70km handicap: R McNeill 1; K Bennett (Garthorne Cup winner) 2; A Luff 3. Fastest time: P Johnstone (1.55.17).

B Grade 70km handicap: B Darby 1; E Scott 2; R Manson 3. Fastest time: Darby (2.15.39).

C Grade 34km handicap: C Prince 1; Z Walker 2; C Bright 3. Fastest time: Walker (59.27).


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