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Merv Davis reached a highlight in his career when he won the 100 mile New Zealand road race title over the gruelling Mataura-Waimumu-Te Tipua circuit in 1968. The 20 year old left the leading bunch over the last three quarters of a mile to win by 10 lengths.
Showing outstanding versatility and strength Davis dominated the last half of the race in a manner which had not seen in Southland since the days of Warwick Dalton.
He chased every break that was given and also rode as the aggressor when it was warranted. He was one of eight that had an unbeatable lead over the rest of the field. Wayne Adams and John Atkinson (Southland) Peter Baker (Wellington) - who ended up runner up.
and the Canterbury riders, Blair Stockwell, Ray Hogan, Ian McLean and Henry Bush were the breakaway group.
From then on it was going to be one of these eight as the winner the only exception was Harry Kent of Wellington who rode hard to try to get to the leading bunch. Kent punctured at the end of the 7th lap and with a quick change chased solo for 15 miles and got to within 20 sec of the bunch at the bottom of the Te Tipua hill for the third time and could not find the leg power to join them.
When the bunch came over the Te Tipua hill for the fourth time the three Southlanders; Davis, Adams and Atkinson were about 10 yards clear and looked like they could ride away from the bunch. But Stockwell, the youngest rider at the age of 18 had a different story and with the Southlanders in his sight dragged the rest of the bunch up the hill with him.
With the next 12 miles which took the riders into the fifth lap the bunch rode steady with only Davis willing to stir the bunch as they raced through Mataura.
After a quick wheel change from Atkinson, who punctured the pace went on from the Canterbury riders but Atkinson only lost a minute and was back with the bunch as they turned into a tail wind. Coming over the Waimumu hill for the sixth time McLean forced the pace to try to get rid of anyone that was feeling tired.
The race took a dramatic turn when on the 8th lap, Davis caught a pedal in his back wheel and broke a number of spokes. He was forced to change the wheel and the Canterbury team sensing that Davis was the one to beat took off down the hill at speeds of up to 6o mph establishing a lead of 20sec. Adams and Atkinson were tucked in behind the Canterburians and refused to do anything until their team-mate Davis joined them.
It took Davis 2 miles to resume contact with the leading bunch and was again in the lead forcing the pace. On the Waimumu climb Davis again tested the other riders and this time was successful when Adams could not stand the pace. Adams came over the top of the hill about 10 yrds behind the others and although he made a terrific effort to stay in touch the earlier efforts had taken their toll and he was forced to drop off. Stockwell was also off the bunch at the top of the hill, but had the guts to return to the bunch after a hectic half mile chase.
He had lost ground when he noticed that his frame had a crack in it and it was no longer safe to ride. Consequently he was forced to abandon it and carried on with a borrowed bike.
With less than 10 miles to go - tactics were an important feature of the race which saw Hogan drift off the back of the field with Atkinson and then sprint back on but the Southlander was just as strong as the Canterbury man. Hogan, Bush and Stockwell then let their team mate McLean to ride away from the others and they refused to chase him. This move changed the whole pattern of the race and the trio were wanting to save themselves thinking that there would be a sprint at the end for the winner.
McLean increased his lead to 30 sec at the bottom of the Te Tipua hill and this is when Davis made his move. It was with grit and determination that he set off in pursuit of McLean and left the rest of the field in his wake. At the start of the 500 yard climb he was within 10 yrds off the leader and the two of them set off with four miles left.
Reaching speeds of 40 mph the trio caught up with McLean and Davis and the bunch were six again, but McLean was tiring and with about 1.5 miles to go and their turn to home with only about three quarters of a mile to go saw Davis take the lead and kept it to the finishing line.
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