He didn't have much of a handicap advantage, but Bike Manawatu's Under 19 rider Michael Richmond made those couple of metres count with his victory in the Velo Ronny's 70th River City Wheel Race at the velodrome on Saturday.

After two years of bad weather, the second year meaning the 70th anniversary running of the Wheel Race was delayed by 12 months, conditions were perfect for the 24 races of various disciplines that were held.

Unfortunately, the turnout was not as strong as in previous seasons, because although there was another strong turnout in the youth grades, who for the first time had their own Sports Heritage Trust Junior Wheel Race to contest over four laps, the adult numbers were well down.

Overall, 40 riders in all age groups competed on the day, compared to the 75 who had registered in 2018 before the event was called off for wet weather.

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This is due to the change of dates with the Wheel Race now being held after the Elite track nationals instead of before, when it would be used as a warmup event, while the New Zealand Elite cyclists who have often attended in the past before the World Championships had their own training weekend in Cambridge.

As a result, organisers decided to just run the senior Wheel Race as a straight final race rather than holding heats, with 11 riders from Whanganui, New Plymouth, Manawatu and Wellington taking part.

In his first senior Wheel Race after coming up to Under 19, Richmond was going off a smallest handicap in the six lap race, while favourite and fellow Bike Manawatu competitor Dylan Simpson was back on scratch, looking to make his way through the field.

Whanganui's Laurie Mildenhall started at the front as he did in the 69th race, with around 5 laps and 10m to cover.

Naturally, the veteran led through the first section, with other groups forming through the field, as Nicola Cox (Cycling New Plymouth) and Kerry Harford (Ramblers) worked together to head towards the lead, with Richmond already starting to make his way through the pack, as was Simpson.

Herb Buyck (Wellington Masters) and Jamie Hodgkinson (PNP) then moved ahead of Cox and Harford, while Mark Coburn (PNP) had also caught up to the front pack, as everyone started looking for Richmond and Simpson as they approached the bell for the final lap.

It was Richmond who answered that bell, going outside of Coburn and powering away, while Simpson needed just under half of the final lap to clear the traffic and it cost him, as Richmond's final kick had him staying clear to pick up the victory.

Buyck picked up third behind Simpson.

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"I was just thinking 'I have to get around these Wellington riders before Dylan comes around me'," Richmond said.

"I couldn't see where he was. Just keep going."

Richmond had another event in 2018 and therefore could not enter the Wheel Race last year, so the young man appreciated that he got to win the 70th edition of a major cycling race at his first try.

"It's definitely cool this event's been going this long."

Ewan Cousins was the inaugural winner of the Junior Wheel Race.
Ewan Cousins was the inaugural winner of the Junior Wheel Race.

The Junior Wheel Race was for riders in the Under 13 to Under 17 category and for much of the race it seemed the rider with the biggest handicap might take it out in the 12 rider group.

Bike Manawatu's Ewan Cousins and Wanganui Cycling Club's Finnegan Murphy started on scratch, while way ahead of them Bike Manawatu's Georgia Simpson started in front.

While Bike Manawatu's Harrison Craw and Wanganui CC's Jack Overweel were able to move up quickly together from their handicap advantage, Simpson was still gamely holding off the boys coming to the bell for the final lap.

Riley Tunnicliffe (Bike Manawatu) had also climbed through the field to get up into third place, as a large group came together along the back stretch as Simpson had finally been caught.

The big move saw Cousins make the big pass over the top of his competition to then dive down into the final turn and take the win, with Tunnicliffe finishing second and Overweel impressive to hang onto third place.

The top three of the Wheel Race: Dylan Simpson, left, Michael Richmond and Herb Buyck.
The top three of the Wheel Race: Dylan Simpson, left, Michael Richmond and Herb Buyck.

Results

Open B Grade Tempo Points 4km: 1. Mark Coburn (PNP); 2. Nicola Cox (Cycling New Plymouth); 3. Zoe Croton (Te Awamutu Sports Cycling Club).

Open A Grade Tempo Points 5km: 1. Dylan Simpson (Bike Manawatu); 2. Michael Richmond (Bike Manawatu); 3. Jamie Hodgkinson (PNP).

Junior B 515m Scratch Finals – B Final: Tyler Harford (Cycling New Plymouth); 2. Kylah Gunn (Bike Manawatu); 3. Seth Cousins (Bike Manawatu). A Final: 1. Lochlan Foote (Bike Manawatu); 2. Harrison Craw (Bike Manawatu); 3. Ta Craw (Bike Manawatu).

Junior A 515m Scratch Finals – B Final: 1. Ben Irvine (Bike Manawatu); 2. Joshua Turnbull (PNP); 3. Ben Mitchell (PNP). A Final: 1. Ewan Cousins (Bike Manawatu); 2. Jack Overweel (Wanganui Cycling Club); 3. Riley Tunnicliffe (Bike Manawatu).

Open A Grade Elimination: 1. Dylan Simpson (Bike Manawatu); 2. Michael Richmond (Bike Manawatu); 3. Jamie Hodgkinson (PNP).

Junior B 2km Snowball Points Race: 1. Lochlan Foote (Bike Manawatu); 2. Ta Craw (Bike Manawatu); 3. Harrison Craw (Bike Manawatu).

Junior A 4km Snowball Points Race: 1. Jack Overweel (Wanganui Cycling Club); 2. Freedie Dosser (PNP); 3. Finnegan Murphy (Wanganui Cycling Club).

Open B Grade Derby Final: 1. Mark Coburn (PNP); 2. Nicola Cox (Cycling New Plymouth); 3. Kerry Harford (Ramblers).

Open A Grade Derby Final – B Final: 1. Gideon Burke (Wellington Masters); 2. Jamie Hodgkinson (PNP); 3. Hubertus Buyck (Wellington Masters). A Final: 1. Bruce Cook (Wellington Masters); 2. Michael Richmond (Bike Manawatu); 3. Jonathan Leonard (Wellington Masters).

Sports Heritage Trust Junior Wheelrace Final: 1. Ewan Cousins (Bike Manawatu); 2. Riley Tunnicliffe (Bike Manawatu); 3. Jack Overweel (Wanganui Cycling Club).

Open A Grade Scratch Race 8km: 1. Dylan Simpson (Bike Manawatu); 2. Gideon Burke (Wellington Masters Cycling Club); 3. Hubertus Buyck (Wellington Masters Cycling Club).

Velo Ronny's 70th River City Wheel Race: 1. Michael Richmond (Bike Manawatu); 2. Dylan Simpson (Bike Manawatu); 3. Hubertus Buyck (Wellington Masters).

Open A Grade Keirin Final – B Grade: 1. Mark Coburn (PNP); 2. Nicola Cox (Cycling New Plymouth); 3. Hubertus Buyck (Wellington Masters). A Grade: 1. Bruce Cook (Wellington Masters); 2. Michael Richmond (Bike Manawatu); 3. Jonathan Leonard (Wellington Masters).

The Junior Wheel Race top three: Jack Overweel, left, Ewan Cousins and Riley Tunnicliffe.
The Junior Wheel Race top three: Jack Overweel, left, Ewan Cousins and Riley Tunnicliffe.