The last race of the elite Benchmark Series proved not such a happy hunting ground for the leading Otago riders.
The first stage was a team time trial with Elyse Fraser’s Benchmark Homes Team taking women’s honours with Tess Molloy’s Cycle World team finishing second fastest.
The main race was a flattish circuit including sections of gravel, organisers seeking to emulate the cobblestones found in European races. Unfortunately the gravel was relatively smooth so this was not race defining as promised.
In the elite men’s race, Jacob Grieve found himself in a breakaway and, with huge kilometres under his belt in preparation for the Tour of Southland, he was able to foot it with top riders including Michael Vink and Sam Horgan . With 8 kilometers remaining Grieve was succumbing to cramp and suspected his day might be over, but he took an opportunity to down some gels and electrolytes and found himself revived. As the finish line approached, three riders got away but Grieve, in one of his best performances, outsprinted his group bar one, to take 5th place.
Brad Evans needed a top 13 to take overall honours, however a stellar ride placed him 14th and he was tied for points with Vink. In a surprising decision, as Vink won the last race, he was awarded the elite title with Evans the deserving winner of the under 23 title.
The masters race was marred by controversy and crashes, but Chris Harvey was first in his age group and placed 8th in the series despite only racing two of the six races. Paul Gough could not wrestle back the leader’s jersey but placed third in the series.
The overall women’s title was reliant upon Saturday’s race, with one point separating Elyse Fraser and teammate Sharlotte Lucas. It came down to the last 10 metres with Lucas pipping Fraser on the line. Fraser reflected that she did all she could on the day.