Sam Jenner has been a hard young man to catch over the last few weeks with back to back weekends at the Tour of Toowoomba and the Battle on the Border which were both 5-stage National Road Series (NRS) races. We did manage to catch up with him earlier this week however to hear how he went.
Stage 1 at Toowoomba was a stark reminder for Sam how tough NRS racing is. This was his first NRS event of the season and as always it was fast and furious from the gun with 152 riders all out to impress. In the last 2k’s the race blew to bits and Sam did well to hang on and finish in the 2nd group on the road just 1m:27s down.
The next morning was a 9.3k ITT, an event he typically does quite well in and was looking forward to. He didn’t disappoint here finishing 22nd, 1m:12s down, a performance that put him 39th on GC and knocking on the door for a top 10 in the young rider classification. His Subaru NSWIS team also had a good day, finishing the stage in 6th place out of 23. Later that day riders rolled out on the 160K third stage in conditions that weren’t great with crosswinds on the lap circuit causing plenty of crashes and incidents. Sam hit a pothole and punctured but managed to get towed back on in time for the extra lap at the end which included three 1K dirt sections just to make things interesting. Sam’s 29th on the stage saw him climb up to 28th overall and make it to 10th in the young rider classification.
Stage 4 was a monster stage of 140k with around 3,200 metres of climbing with some brutal ascents including one about 5k from the finish with a gradient that hit 20%. Not surprisingly, 23 riders abandoned the stage but by the end of the day Sam was up to 25th in GC and going well.
The final stage was a rapid 50k city circuit criterium and Sam focused hard on staying safe and protecting his position. He finished in the 63-strong bunch and rested up that night reflecting on a great performance that saw him finish 25th in GC, just 5m:50s down and 10th overall in the young rider competition. A great result, and even better when we learn that he hardly slept the night before stage 4 feeling sick and lethargic with mouth pain.
In the intervening days before the Battle on the Border, a trip to the dentist revealed that Sam’s wisdom teeth were making an appearance and had created an infection which needed antibiotics. Not the best preparation but apparently, “once you’re in an NRS race, you’re so focused, you don’t even think about the pain, so it wasn’t too bad”.
So, to the Battle, and a 123k road race on stage 1 that finished on Mount Warning. Given his good form within the team, Sam was the protected rider and the NSWIS guys delivered him to the bottom of the climb in a good position, but a third of the way up the pace went off the charts and he had to accept 39th spot 2m:58s down. Another big day followed with 177k of riding and about 4.5 hours in the saddle. Sitting 11th in the young rider classification and 22nd overall, Nathan Bradshaw was the teams protected rider on Stage 2 but the guys were also keen to get Troy Herfoss up to the front in time for what was a very technical finish with some tight corners which would suit his excellent bike handling skills. They did what they needed to do and Troy finished 5th on the day.
Day 3 provided a big lap circuit and 156k of fast-paced action with a focus on getting the NSWIS boys in the break which they managed for much of the race, still managing to finish in the top third of what was now a field of only 100 riders ahead of the next days time trial stage. Sam was again targeting a good finish here and he was happy with 15th on the lumpy 10k course that pushed him up to a top 25 place on the overall classification.
Having had such a great tour, Sam was determined to finish it off in style and in the showdown criterium he went to jump across to the lead bunch after around 10 minutes only for his chain to jam up solid between the crank and the chainrings. He had to get off and try to fix it but it was well and truly jammed. By the time it was sorted the race had come round again on the tight 1.3k circuit and he was pulled out and given an estimated finish time of 14m:40s down on the winners. This was a tough decision that dashed his hopes of a good GC place but he took it well and instead reflected on a great performance, compared with that just one year earlier when he didn’t finish the event and only managed 100th place on the ITT.
With the cancellation of the Murray and Gipsland events, the NRS is now in a mid-season break which means we might see a bit more of Sam in some local competitions when he’s not catching up on his school work! He will be heading West to race in the double-header of Coonabarabran to Gunnedah and then the Gunnedah to Tamworth this weekend – good luck to you Sam and thanks for sharing your stories with us once again. Great results!