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Four World Tour professionals will headline next month’s RaboDirect Elite Road National Championships in Christchurch.
The 2010 champion Jack Bauer (Garmin Cervelo), three-time world championship medallist Linda Villumsen (GreenEdge) and the RadioShack Nissan Trek pair of Jesse Sergent and George Bennett have all confirmed their entries.
The championships, in their third year in Christchurch, begin with the time trials over 40km (men and under-23 men) and 25km (women) on Friday 6 January at Lincoln College. The women’s road race over 123km is on Saturday and 186km men’s race on Sunday around a 15.6km lap that includes a testing climb up the Port Hills.
Missing from the start list is this year’s winner Hayden Roulston and Greg Henderson, both preparing for the Tour Down Under for their new pro teams – RadioShack Nissan Trek and Lotto Belisol respectively – while two-time national champion Julian Dean is recovering after fracturing his shoulder blade in a recent training camp in Australia with his new GreenEdge team.
Sergent, who will also start in the Tour Down Under, will be looking to build on his outstanding year on the road where he picked up a stunning three victories and has recently been in strong form on the track.
Bauer is preparing for his important first year in the big league, after earning his elevation to World Tour status after two years in the Pro Continental ranks. He is seen by the team bosses as a surprise packet in early season classics.
Bennett, who has been with RadioShack Nissan Trek’s under-23 development team, made the most of his trial as a stagiaire at the end of the season, and will have a real liking for the Dyers Pass climb.
Other leading men to line-up include the 2011 podium finisher Jeremy Yates who has ridden for the Turkish-based Manisaspor team this year, US-based pro Jeremy Vennell, Garmin-Cervelo development rider Tom Scully, in-form European-based pro Chris Macic and the pairing of Tim Gudsell and Scott Lyttle, from the former PureBlack line-up.
Villumsen returns to the national championships after finishing runner-up in the road race two years ago. She won silver medals at the Commonwealth Games and world championships in the time trial which was her third straight medal. Villumsen has moved to the new GreenEdge women’s line-up with her clear goal fixed on the London Olympics.
Olympic track hopefuls Jo Kiesanowski and Lauren Ellis will start in the road race along with talented professionals Emma Crum and Serena Sheridan and duathlon star Melanie Burke, who won the famed Zofingen race three months ago.
Former winner Vennell and defending champion Westley Gough will find Sergent a handful in the time trial, while Villumsen will be the rider to beat in the women’s timed test with challenges from defending champion Sonia Waddell and track specialists Alison Shanks, Jaime Nielsen and Ellis.
There will be a top line-up in the under-23 race led by last year’s road race champion Michael Vink, third overall, and time trial champion Jason Christie along with Tour of Southland winner Josh Atkins.
The championships will also recognise the BikeNZ Road and Track Riders of the Year to be announced at a special awards function on Friday 6 January.
Start lists and event details: www.elitenationals.co.nz