Credit: Team Bridgelane/Hitari Media
A long-range solo move by Rylee Field (Team Bridgelane) was the decisive moment that clinched victory for the tough New South Welshman at the New Zealand Cycle Classic.
Despite taking a number of superb results during the 2019 National Road Series with powerhouse rides as an individual and crucial performances in support of teammates, Field went into 2020 as the newbie on the Team Bridgelane roster without much hope of leadership.
A forgettable Australian nationals campaign for the premier Australian squad saw the team enter the New Zealand Cycle Classic with a fair bit of pressure to rectify the below-par start to the year. Few expected, even Field himself, that the lanky Sydney resident would be the one to deliver the overall win.
“Ayden (Toovey) was there and he was in really good form,” said Field, “that was the case at nationals and unfortunately the team messed up a couple of things in terms of how we rode it. Coming into new Zealand there was Ayden (Toovey), Sam (Jenner) and Kees (Duyvesteyn), they were our three big options, Jensen (Plowright) as well our sprinter.
“He’s (Plowright) an absolute animal, a very smart bike rider and he can hustle his way through a bunch at 20 kilometres an hour or 50. On the flatter stages we had Jensen and the harder, more demanding stages we had the other three.”
Plowright had a successful tour, with four podiums including a stage win and a day in the yellow leader’s jersey. With the climbers in the Bridgelane squad expected to shine on the now traditional New Zealand Cycle Classic ascent of Admiral Hill, Field was on domestique duty for Stage 4, the expected queen stage of the race.
“On Stage 4 there were three repeats of the climb on a loop, each was about 55 kilometres,” said Field. “After we’d finished the third climb, getting ready to go up Admiral Hill, the break was kind of within reach of the bunch, about 40 seconds.”
Field is well-known for his aggressive style of racing within Australia, but tempered his attacking instincts with working to team strategy in the race.
“I talked to Ayden, who was riding as team captain,” said Field. “I said ‘man, I’m feeling really good, what you need me to do I’ll be able to my job perfectly’. He said that if there was anything moving off the front to follow it and get across to the break.
“Someone jumped and I got on his wheel, we swapped turns and made it over to the break, I think I dropped him on the way there.
“Straight away, I knew I was going really good as my turns were five kilometres an hour faster and I was feeling really good. The other guys didn’t want to roll turns apart from Matt Zenovich (St George Continental), the others took some convincing.”
“The car came up with 20 kilometres to go and Tom (Petty, team manager for Bridgelane) said ‘don’t ride to show how strong as an individual you are, ride to win the race’.”
The final climb loomed large on the horizon, Admiral Hill, the 6.5 kilometre ascent rated at 6 per cent gradient, but containing tough sections of 11 per cent as well. For the powerful rather than light Field, the imperative was to gain time before the climb.
“There was a really good ramp to bounce off with 15 kilometres to go and I immediately got a good gap. The gap back to bunch was I think about 1 minute and ten seconds when I attacked and I got it out to two minute ten seconds. I just held it all the way, going bloody hard.”
“On the final climb I was bit cautious, thinking they might catch me as I’m not much of a climber. It’s a seven kilometre berg and bloody hard. It only sunk in with a kilometre to go that no one was going to catch me. I looked back and couldn’t see anyone. I found out after that that I was up on GC as well, I hadn’t even been thinking about that.”
“A breakaway like this, not many people knew who I was, I’d been riding the front a fair bit and I think they thought ‘he’s just covering stuff for his team’. Numbers-wise, I hate how cycling is about that sometimes, from that perspective, that’s where my bread and butter is, that longer attack.”
Field won the stage by the quite amazing margin of 52 seconds ahead of teammate Duyvesteyns and went into the leader’s jersey with a with a relatively comfortable lead that he and the Bridgelane squad were able to defend on the final stage to secure the overall victory in the UCI 2.2 category race.
While it may seem almost an accidental win, for 25-year-old Field it is a just reward for a cycling career mixed with ups and downs, bouncing between teams and sometimes not finding that each landing spot was a good fit.
It’s a rarity in cycling, but immediately after the win, Field was immediately talking about how he’s really a domestique, and while he might dream of cycling at higher levels, he’s under little illusion of what he’ll be asked to do if he can get there.
“The thing is I’m not a sprinter and in a domestique role it’s awesome as I can ride the front at a high tempo, really hard,” said Field. “I don’t need much recovery. From a team perspective you need someone who can get bottles and bring breaks back, the first person in a leadout… that’s me. My power is really good long term 40 minutes, 30 minutes, 20 minutes. To win a sprint, that’s not me.”
An example of Field’s incredible teamwork was on show at the Stan Siejka Classic in Launceston late last year, when Field’s tour de force of grunt work kept the race together for eventual winner Cameron Ivory (GPM-Stulz). Now with a new team, Field marveled at how well the squad came together in New Zealand.
“It’s pretty incredible,” said Field, “I think it’s just Ayden, Joe (Cooper) and Ben (Van Dam) that were originals from the team last year, the rest of us were all new. It was great, just the willingness to push and lay everything on the line for what was a relatively new team for most of us, our first Tour.
“It was a really good feeling, there were no questions asked when it came to working for each other. That’s what you want in a team environment and that’s what we got.”
Field was quite rightly bubbly and excited during the interview, but has a level-headed vision of what needs to happen for him to progress in cycling.
“I’m just looking to grow,” said Field. “In terms of how strong I am and that stuff, yeah, I’m a strong rider but learning how to read a race and how to ride is what I can learn.
“Those little things that if you add them all into a bag, they make a big difference. And that’s what I lack. Learning as much I can from the whole team that’s the idea.
“With a bit of luck, I might be able to make that next step. If I’m learning and growing in a structured way, then the rest will take care of itself.”
After a very good 2019 season, a move to Team Bridgelane was a natural progression, but few would have expected such early results from Field. His career will be an interesting one to follow, with the selfless domestique someone that will surely attract interest if he continues to perform in this vein.
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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger