Sam Gardner – World Champion!

Sam Gardner – World Champion!

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Below is a dispatches from lifetime member and founder of club sponsor BikeBoxOnline, Sam Gardner. After a family move to New Zealand, things have gone from strength to strength since starting his own race team and re-igniting his talent on a bike..

 

 

 

Hi BTS from a chilly New Zealand.

While you’re all swimming open water, spare a thought for us in the Southern Hemisphere where it was 1 degree this morning.

After doing a few triathlons last season I am now just bike racing. Mixing up a bit of on road and off road, I topped the Elite Cyclocross national rankings last season, got 4th in the longest running MTB race in the Southern hemisphere and managed a podium at one the races in the North Island Elite series.

So, with the World Masters Games being held in Auckland this year, it was an obvious goal for me.

I had hoped to enter 4 events. The mountain bike, time trial, criterium and road race, but the time trial was already fully booked when I tried to register, so here is a summary of the 3 I did enter.

CRITERIUM – fast paced bunch racing on a short urban circuit

Held around the quay in Auckland with 2 dead turns, the 40-44 age group (yeah, I know I don’t look that old), was held with the 30-34 and 35-39 age groups, which ensured a fast aggressive race.

I managed to get away on a solo attack with 5 laps to go. With a lack of finishing sprint, it was a do or die move and unfortunately I was caught with a lap and a half remaining to finish in the bunch.

MOUNTAIN BIKE

With no time trial now the following day, I managed to get another hour of practice on the mountain bike course, and more importantly didn’t have 2 days racing in my legs.

The mountain bike race almost didn’t go to plan with the seeding being done on previous masters games results and after that pot luck, which left me on the back row. Luckily I avoided the crashes at the start, and with a large gravel climb  to sort out positioning it gave me a good chance to get with the leaders. All of a sudden the red sea parted and I seized the chance to sprint and tag on the back of the 2 leaders. After that things got easier and I treated it like a road race, trying to conserve energy while people around me tried to batter each other into submission. With 2 laps to go, I seized my chance as people started tiring and I rode on fear to the finish, to a shiny Gold medal. 🙂  (Sam is being modest here, he won by over 3 mins!)

ROAD RACE

The road race was 6 days later, so I went home for a few days and did some light training and flew up the day before the race. In contrast to the sunshine and heat of the previous weekend, the road race was run in torrential rain. Knowing I’d be marked pretty tightly, I had to race clever. The 95km race was very negative and when 2 riders broke clear on the first lap everyone played cat and mouse refusing to do the work chasing them back. This soon resulted in them getting a 2 minute lead, while every counter attack came to very little.On the 4th lap of 5, I started to panic slightly and realised we had to act soon if we were ever going to catch them. My first 4 or 5 efforts came to nothing, and then with a lap to go the winner of the criterium and an american guy who crashed while in the lead of the criterium attacked together. They soon had day light between themselves and the peleton, and I knew I had to act immediately as they were likely to stay away. Once across the gap we didn’t miss a turn and it took only half a lap to catch the 2 leaders who were beginning to tire by now. Our group of now 5 stayed together until the major climb, when I attacked. I was caught just starting the descent by Chris (the American ex pro), and at the bottom the descent by a kiwi called Brett. With both these guys in the age group below me, all I had to do was keep the break away for another 12km and I was guaranteed another Gold medal. I probably did more than my 3rd of the work, but I wasn’t leaving anything to chance, in the sprint I managed to get 2nd to Chris, but won my age group by over a minute.

A great well organised event, with 25,000 athletes competing in a variety of sports. Certainly one to add to the bucket list when it next hits Europe. The next World Masters Games is in Japan in 2 years time

Hope you all have a successful season, regardless of your aims – and keep hiring those boxes!

Sam