By Steve Carle
Pahiatua played its part in the running of the only World 2.2 Union Cycliste International (UCI)-sanctioned annual event in New Zealand, the Trust House Cycle Classic, held from January 13-17 in Wairarapa and Wellington.
Team manager for Couplands Bakery/Booths Transport Team, Kevin Laskey, comes from Pahiatua. Included in the six-man team he led was Madi HartleyBrown, also from Pahiatua.
"The team was a good strong bunch of guys in a great environment," said Laskey. "Everything was catered for them: food, nutrition, recovery and massage by Pahiatua local Yvette Young.
"We had a big week, starting with the team time trial where we finished third out of 14 teams. In first place was the New Zealand Olympic Track Cycling Team and second was professional team Black Spoke Cycling. It was a pretty awesome effort.
"We had a plan of attacking the races over the three days, we had nothing to lose, being a group of amateur riders. The boys decided on their own that they wanted to attack the races, getting into a break-away every single day.
"It was set-up with one-twoing. Somebody would go on the attack from the front of the peleton (main group of riders), bring it back, then another rider goes on the attack - trying to draw three or four riders out to establish a break.
"Then the peleton brings it back. Then three or more riders go out to try and establish a break. Every day it worked. Madi Hartley-Brown established his role in making that happen. He's a followed, watched rider and really struggles to get away because of his talent.
"That helped their team riders who might not have been so strong and not so heavily watched, to get away once the peleton had enough - they couldn't keep chasing all day.
"Our team established the breaks and we won the most aggressive award for two days in a row. We certainly got a lot of respect from the other teams which totalled 84 riders.
"We talked tactics for the race every night and every morning - how we thought the race was going to unfold, how we were going to approach it. When I race, I'm an attacking rider, I don't like to just sit and follow wheels - that is my strategy, I was fortunate to have a team of boys who were prepared to do the same.
"On one stage we got third riding into Martinborough, in the break on the second day we had two riders of eight in it and this was won by ex-Pahiatua rider Luke Mudgway by 15 seconds," said Laskey.
Owing to Covid-19 four international teams and their riders were missing from the event. However, there was significant online interest from overseas. Across the five days of racing, race director Jorge Sandoval said 78 countries engaged with his NZ Cycle Classic website with many hits coming from the United States, the Netherlands, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Sandoval said specialist media from Germany and Switzerland also touched base for follow-up stories on cycling in New Zealand from a race and destination perspective.