Back on the bike for Gravel and Tar Classic after life-threatening crash

Photo caption: Manawatu cyclists, from left, Dylan Simpson, Thomas Stannard, Madi Hartley-Brown and Carne Groube, will be joined by Auckland cyclist Alex Ray for the Gravel and Tar Classic.

Photo credit: Colleen Sheldon

Auckland cyclist Alex Ray will ride this Saturday’s Gravel and Tar Classic in his first race since surviving a life-threatening crash while out training in Auckland last April. 

As tradition dictates, a guest rider has been included into a young Manawatu team and Ray, who arrives for the race later this week, will be at the helm.

The 28-year-old, with years of international racing under his belt, spent eight days in an induced coma and has had to undergo rigorous rehabilitation to get back on the bike.

A further race tradition is the inclusion of a young Manawatu team, providing these riders a first opportunity to experience UCI level racing.

Recent Palmerston North Boys High School year finishers, Dylan Simpson, Madi Hartley-Brown, and Thomas Stannard have all been named in the Manawatu Development team for this Saturday’s race.

Although first year U23 riders, Hartley-Brown and Simpson have already experienced junior level international racing and Stannard has raced several times in Australia. 

They are joined by more experienced rider, Palmerston North’s Carne Groube, who this year is contracted to the Australian-based Anchor Point South Coast Team.

Groube, a former junior Australia Criterium champion, is looking to start the year off with a podium place on his home turf.

“I’m used to riding on gravel and the gravel sectors will sort the winners from the rest.

“No matter how good the team, it’s so unpredictable with the gravel adding a different element to the race,” Groube said.

For the 20-year-old, cycling against international riders was a great way to gauge performance.

“It’s great to be riding against strong teams from all over, it’s good to test yourself and test where you are internationally,” he said.

Race Director Steve Stannard said the event gave up-and-coming Manawatu riders exposure to some of the best in Australasia.

“One of the goals of organising this Manawatu event is to give riders the opportunity to mix with the best from Australia and New Zealand, and a leg up to UCI racing which leads to bigger and better opportunities.”

“It’s something we can do for our riders that other events can’t,” Stannard said.

Hannah Rowe