Aaron Gate (Burgos-BH) has jumped from a winning performance in the Madison at the Track Nations Cup in Adelaide to victory on the road less than a week later, claiming the elite men’s title at Saturday’s 196km road race at New Zealand’s National Championships in Timaru.
The 33-year-old, who has twice claimed the elite time trial title but never before the road race title, beat Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) to the line with Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) coming third in the five way sprint of the lead group. Strong’s teammate George Bennett was next and Logan Currie (Lotto-Dstny) took fifth in a race where powerful moves came early and the bulk of the field were ruled out of contention in the opening laps.
“I did everything I could. I was aggressive from the start. I knew where was going to be guys biding their time, nervous with the distance,” said Gate who was also runner up at the time trial on Thursday. “You can’t let races like this get away from you and be over before it started.”
Marshall Erwood (MitoQ-NZ Cycling Project) claimed the under 23 title ahead of Lucas Murphy (Quality Foods Southland). The 19-year-old Lewis Bower (Equipe Continentale Groupama-FDJ ) grasped the final spot on the podium in the U23 category of the combined race, which played out over eight laps of a 24.4km course that started and finished in the port city of Timaru on the South Island of New Zealand.
The racing started in the sunshine for the peloton of around 60 which included a growing number of WorldTour riders. Still the field was missing last year’s winner James Oram, who has now retired, as well as the New Zealand-based ProTeam of Bolton Equities BlackSpoke that dominated the race and monopolised the podium in 2023.
That meant the expectation was always that it would be a much more open race this year on the largely rolling course with a short and sharp climb around 5km from the end to split the field. There was some trepidation at the start with rain expected during the race, which has in recent years had a history of wild winds and disruptive weather conditions, but conditions overall ended up being a little kinder through the 2024 event. The clouds did mass but it was the downpour of attacks that were left to shape the majority of the race, with the rain and blustery conditions only arriving in the final lap.
There were a barrage of moves and splits in the opening two laps, and then by five laps to go a solid lead four emerged – George Bennett…