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Newly crowned Tour of Southland winner James Oram is none the wiser about his chances in tomorrow’s Jerry Clayton BMW Criterium National Championships in Auckland.
The 20 year old, who rides professionally for US-based Bissell Development Cycling, is unsure of his chances around the tight and technical street circuit in downtown Takapuna after having his wisdom teeth removed.
“I’ll see how I go. It’s my local course and only five minutes from home. It’s always a great atmosphere and having all your friends and family cheering you on helps,” Oram said.
Oram, who is a former medallist in the under-19 time trial at the world championships, is an early favourite after winning the country’s much-sought after road tour last weekend.
However the elite national criterium titles will be anyone’s to win with defending champions Georgia Williams and Hayden McCormick competing in the international Festival of Speed track cycling meet in Invercargill this weekend.
Oram will face some tough competition from other riders who enjoyed success at the Tour of Southland, including of Roman van Uden, winner of the Mt Cardrona stage, and 2011 national criterium champion Mike Northey, who won the Invercargill to Gore stage and was runner-up last year. Both van Uden and Northey enjoyed solid seasons racing for UK-base UCI Continental pro team Node4 Giordana.
Oram is quick to point out Northey’s credentials.
“Mike is definitely the one to beat,” claimed Oram. “He’s a hot favourite, but all the boys will have good legs coming off Southland too.”
Another to watch is Southland’s Tom Scully, just back from a strong season in Europe with his pro continental Team Raleigh.
The elite women’s race is likely to see a tough battle between Alexandra’s Sophie Williamson and North Shore local Kate Chilcott , who have both recently returned after racing with women’s pro cycling team Vanderkitten in USA.
Williamson, who won three junior world championship medals on the track, is well equipped to face the technical course which races along Takapuna’s Hurstmere Road and features roundabouts, tight corners and a long downhill finishing straight.
Watch too for Emily Collins, who enjoyed a brilliant debut season for the glamour British Wiggle Honda team, backed by Tour de France and Olympic champion, Bradley Wiggins.
Nelson’s Karen Fulton will also be one to watch, with experience on her side, and proven past victories including the elite women’s criterium in Taupo, as will national cyclocross champion Jenna Makgill, with the tight street circuit likely to suit the two-time World Courier Champion.
The event is expected to attract another large crowd and is a highlight of the Takapuna events calendar.
Racing starts at 5.30pm on Hurstmere Rd for under-17 year old riders, followed by an open event, elite women, who race for 30 minutes plus one lap and elite men, who race 45 minutes plus one lap.