It's tough task wearing the yellow jersey

By John Maslin

When you're wearing the tour leader's yellow jersey in a cycle race don't expect to have too many friends.

Gary Mikkelsen, of Cambridge, knows all about that after taking overall honours during the NZ Masters Games four-stage cycle tour on Saturday and Sunday.

Over those two days, and in blistering heat, the competitors had a good mix of events to handle.

First up Saturday morning was the 8.5km individual time trial from Bason Reserve to Westmere School and return, followed in the afternoon by a 66km circuit around the Westmere-Kai Iwi circuit.

On Sunday, it was the 128km ride from Durie Hill School to Hunterville and return. The morning stage was a 70km section to the Rangitikei township in the morning, with a shorter (58km) return stage in the afternoon.

Racing in the 40-45 year age group, Mikkelsen was second in the time trial and won the road stage on Saturday and then followed that up with line honours in the city to Hunterville run before holding on for a fifth placing on the return and final leg.

That saw him finish the day still wearing that yellow jersey and then later confirmed as overall winner. Not a bad effort for his first Masters Games.

"The guy that was closest to me [in points] went from the gun and got about 30-40 seconds on the group I was with but there was no one helping me; it was just me chasing the rest," he said. "You've got no friends when you're wearing the yellow jersey. You chase otherwise you're not doing anything."

He eventually caught that rider and then defended a couple of attempts to drop him on some hill climbs.

Mikkelsen said it was a "fantastic" course.

"It's two different courses going out and coming back and that makes it interesting," he said.

Meantime, he has a break before time trials on Friday and another road race on Saturday. And expect to see him back in two years' time.

Marton's Brent Bismark, like Mikkelsen, was competing in the 40-plus age division and finished second in that grade and second overall, with Wanganui's Phil Groves (45-plus) first in his age group and third overall.

Line honours in Sunday's Hunterville and return leg went to Wanganui City College teacher Pat Johnstone (58).

Johnstone stuck with two other riders out and back and that sealed the deal in terms of line honours.

"We really hammered it. We just needed to ride the hills hard and then it became a matter of attrition," he said.

He has taken part in a few Masters Games but reckons the reason for his success is the state-of-the-art bikes he rides.

"They're all over-specced really.

"You know as you get older you want a better car with leather upholstery, well it's the same with cycling," he said.

He's not a newbie at the sport, gaining success at age group level at national events.

He rode a 200km stage in the Tour de France last year as well, a ride he termed "brutal".

"That was the first time I questioned myself on a bike," he said.

The hard luck story of the weekend belonged to Wanganui's Cherie Prince (women's 35-plus).

Prince (38) is back into competitive cycling after taking a break to bring up a family. This is also her first Masters.

Quickest in the time trial and in the Kai Iwi-Westmere road race on Saturday, she was holding third place overall in the city to Hunterville stage. But then a puncture cost her about 12 minutes and dashed her chances of a win.

"I won three stages so I'm happy with that even if disappointed with the overall result," she said.

The gold medal went to Anya Raynes (52) of Upper Hutt with Lesley Mouat (55) from Masterton getting the silver.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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