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Yates conquers hills and the wet

By Gary Caffell

Manawatu’s Joel Yates aspires to make it big in the sport of professional road cycling and his elite division win in race four of the Trust House North Island Cycling Series on Saturday showed he will certainly make the grade on the score of both grit and determination.

It was a victory which took Yates to a clear lead in the under-23 section of the event and it came on a day which was always going to be a tough grind, an arduous set of hill climbs being made even more testing by the wet weather.

The climbs took up some 22km of the 120km race for the elites with the Te Wharau and Limeworks hills providing a gruelling entrée to the battle to the finish up the 12km long Admiral hill.

As it happened what was to be the key moment in the big race came after just 20km had been covered with seven riders breaking away, including Yates and his Team Skoda Racing teammate Brad Tilby, Mark Langlands (Breadcraft), Mexican Carlos Lopez (Spoken Cycles) and Sam Gardner (Bikebox Rentals).

Coming to the Te Wharau hill they had all of seven minutes to spare from the chasing bunch who seemed quite content to let them fight it out for the major prize.

At the top of Te Wharau it was Tilby in front and the group of seven continued to stay together over Limeworks hill but things changed dramatically as the leaders started the climb up Admiral hill.

It was then that Yates and Lopez took the bull by the horns and 6km from the top they launched an attack which saw them gain a small but vital lead over their rivals.

Coming to the last few hundred metres there was still nothing between the two pacesetters but it was Yates who pulled out that little bit extra when it mattered most to take eventually take the spoils.

Lopez was the bravest of seconds with Gardner taking third almost a minute back.

The win for Yates makes him a warm favourite to secure the under-23 title with just one race in the series to go while David Weaver from Wheelworks retains his place at the top of the points table for overall elite

The Mitre 10 Mega Masterton Masters one grade was almost a repeat of last year’s corresponding event with the same trio of riders battling it out for the top three spots.

It also came down to a sprint finish at the top of Admiral Hill with Callum Kennedy winning by the barest of margins from Steve Bale.

Third was Scott McDonnell from Christchurch who had placed first in 2015.

John Randall retains his overall lead in this grade.

There was plenty of excitement too when it came to the finish of the Masterton Masters grade two race with the majority of this field still in contention at the bottom of Admiral hill.

Halfway up this climb, however, a trio of riders broke clear and Wellington’s Rob Kilvington won by almost 29sec from Masterton’s Jeff Saywell and Wanganui’s Pat Johnstone.

Series leader in this grade is Kerrin Allwood, just one point ahead of former Olympian Gary Anderson.

Race director Jorge Sandoval said Saturday’s event proved every bit as demanding as expected and he is now looking forward to the fifth and final race in the series which will cover 120km from Masterton to Pahiatua and return.

It will be held on Sunday, December 4.

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