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Key cyclists are expecting a war of attrition at this weekend’s Calder Stewart elite road national championships in Christchurch.
The 185km men’s race on Sunday includes 10 climbs up the testing Dyers Pass in the Cashmere Hills, while Saturday’s women’s race comprises six ascents.
There is always plenty of conjecture about the merits of the battle between the World Pro Tour riders, others riding internationally, the domestic cyclists and those banding together in trade teams.
However the winners of the previous four men’s titles in Christchurch believe it is more a case of the last man standing rather than the intricacies of tactics.
“You have to have the legs to win on that course,” said three-time and defending champion, Hayden Roulston.”It doesn’t matter if you have a team of 10 or an army of 20, if you don’t have the legs, you aren’t going to win.”
The 2012 winner, James Williamson from Alexandra believes the Dyers Pass climb is the key.
“It’s really a race of attrition. The key to doing well is the ability to manage repeat efforts up the climb,” Williamson said. “Yes you have to be able to ride the distance but the climbs are where you see them dropping off.”
Garmin Sharp professional Jack Bauer, who won in 2010, said groups of riders can make a difference but the strongest on the day generally prevails.
“For us Northern Hemisphere riders it is tough because we have been riding from January until October and so it’s hard to be as fit as you would like to be for this,” Bauer said.
“That’s no excuse though. The three Radioshack boys riding together last year did make a difference but it is also a case of being really strong over the climbs.”
The championships begin tomorrow with the time trials near Lincoln College.
While many titles are wide open, the women’s time trial should be one-way traffic where five-time world championship medallist, Linda Villumsen is the white-hot favourite.
Currently based in Christchurch, the Wiggle Honda professional has come off the back of last week’s strong performances in Bay Crits series in Melbourne and with favourite conditions may further reduce the record of 33min28sec she set for the 25km distance last year.
The men’s field, to race over 40kms, features defending champion Jo Cooper (Wellington), the 2012 victor and 2013 Oceania winner Paul Odlin (Christchurch), 2010 champion and London Olympic medallist Westley Gough (Hawkes Bay), along with former Under-23 time trial winners Jason Christie (South Canterbury)and Michael Vink (Christchurch), who is a doubtful starter after picking up a virus this week.
In the under-23 battle, North Harbour’s James Oram, the time trial runner-up and road race winner last year, is favoured ahead of Waimate’s Dylan Kennett, a member of BikeNZ’s endurance track programme.
Roulston, who is wearing the new colours of the Trek Factory Team, is chasing his fourth national road race title on Sunday, and his third in the last four years.
He will get support from fellow Trek World Pro Teammate Jesse Sergent, while there will be chances for Bauer, the 2010 winner, and Nelson’s Geoge Bennett, second last year, who will have his first major ride for his new Cannondale team.
Williamson, the 2012 champion, has had a mixed build-up but believes he can be a contender and will receive considerable support from his New Zealand Cycling Project team , a new trade team established byJames Canny.
Vink, a two-time under-23 national champion, will also have trade team support, along with Jason Allen, Olympic medallist Marc Ryan and former Olympian Robin Reid from Scotty Browns Vision Systems.
The well-performed Mike Northey and Roman van Uden form Auckland both enjoyed strong showings last year and sure to be prominent at the business-end of Sunday’s race.
Oram, who rides for the new Bissell Development team in USA this year, is heavily favoured to defend his under-23 road race honours from Lotto Belisol Development professional Hayden McCormick from Te Awamutu and the likes of Dion Smith (Auckland), Fraser Gough (Hawkes Bay) and Liam Aitcheson (Southland).
The women’s race has attracted a small but select field for the 120km battle on Saturday headed by defending champion Courteney Lowe (Tauranga).
Favouritism is split between the in-form Reta Trotman (Otago), who won the recent Tour de Vineyards, and experience hometown hope, Joanne Kiesanowski, who went so close last year to winning the title she claimed 12 years ago.
Villumsen, not normally in medal-winning form this early, may surprise after her strong showing at the Bay Crits, and there will also be strong support for her Wiggle Honda teammate Emily Collins (Auckland) who enjoyed an outstanding season in Europe.
The 2010 winner Rushlee Buchanan heads a group of national endurance track riders in Jaime Nielsen (Waikato), Lauren Ellis (Mid Canterbury) and Georgia Williams (Auckland), who was second last year and enjoyed an excellent debut year for Be Pink professional team in Europe.
Others not to be discounted include professionals Kate Chilcott (Auckland), exciting Central Otago professional Sophie Williamson and European-based mountain bike professional Samara Sheppard (Wellington), who will no doubt relish the hills.
The championships begin with the time trials at Lincoln College on Friday, with women’s road race over 120.5kms on Saturday comprising eight laps with six climbs of the infamous Dyers Pass. The elite and under-23 men’s race on Sunday is 12 laps in total for 183.7kms, starting with the usual full lap on the flat before 10 circuits up the Dyers Pass climb and a final flat lap to the finish.
Full details and live coverage: www.elitenationals.co.nz