Before returning to Europe, the Groupama-FDJ’s New Zealanders had one last appointment on the other side of the world. From Thursday, Reuben Thompson, Laurence Pithie and Lewis Bower were set to take part in their national championship, which started with the time trial event. It eventually began in a pretty good way since Laurence Pithie and Lewis Bower both won a bronze medal, respectively among the Elites and the U23 categories. They will aim for even bigger on Saturday for the road race.

The riders were expected in Timaru, two hours south of Christchurch, for the launch of the 2024 New Zealand championships. For the men’s U23 and Elite riders, the same route was on the program: a gruelling 37.4-kilometre time trial, as a round trip, with a total of four hills and almost 400 metres of elevation gain. “It was a really hard course,” explained Laurence. “It was quite fast on the way out, but very hard on the way back with the climbs.” The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race winner was expected at the start at 11:53 a.m. local time, two minutes after his teammate Reuben Thompson. In the mix for the top position for almost twenty kilometres, Laurence Pithie didn’t manage to stay in contention until the very end. “I think I paced a little bit too hard on the way out, and I paid for it on the way home,” he said. “I was on pace for a good time, battling with top guys like Logan Currie, but in the end, I just didn’t have the legs to continue.”

“All my eyes are on the road race”, Laurence Pithie

In the end, the young Kiwi completed the course in 49 minutes and 13 seconds, the day’s third best time, 1’03 behind winner Logan Currie. Reuben Thompson took seventh position, 3’09 behind the New Zealand champion. “I can still be happy with third place,” said Laurence. “It was good to be in the Elite category this year, even though I could still race U23. I cannot complain”. Among the U23, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team collected another bronze medal thanks to Lewis Bower, a member of La Conti. On the same route, the 19-year-old young man set a time of 53 minutes, 1’12 behind winner Guy Yarrell. On Saturday, the elite and U23 riders will compete together in the road race. “All my eyes are on this race,” concluded Laurence. “I’ve had a little bit of illness after the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, but hopefully by Saturday it will be all gone, and I will be ready to go. It’s a nice course, it suits me, so I’m super motivated to be there and get the win.”

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