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Christchurch-based professional Hayden Roulston claimed his fourth victory after a colossal battle at the Calder Stewart Elite National Road Cycling Championships on home turf today.
The win, after a long-range battle with fellow World Pro Tour pro Jack Bauer and 23-year-old local rider, Tom Davison, means he is now equal with Jack Swart and only one title behind ebullient Aucklander Gordon McCauley for the most number of victories in the 76 year history of the championship.
The trio hit the front shortly after the midway point of the 12-lap, 184km race on a wind-swept day on the arduous Cashmere Hills circuit.
“It feels the best of the four wins to be honest,” said Roulston, who became the first national winner for his re-named Trek Factory Team. “It is very difficult to win this race once, let alone winning it again and again.
“I think this year was the hardest. I raced this year different to how I usually race. This time I decided to go from the start and make those guys chase me. I hit 306 watts today – that’s a massive, massive day for four and a half hours.”
After an early break Roulston worked hard to move to the chase bunch, forcing Bauer to make a solo charge from the third pack to bridge up. Roulston’s Trek Factory Teammate Jesse Sergent then worked hard to drive through to the front of the field, and gradually the battle of attrition ground down the number in front.
With five laps remaining it was down to Roulston, Bauer and young charger Davison, also a prominent young triathlete, who did more than his share of tempo work at the front of the pack.
The trio were still together as they rounded the corner with 400m remaining. As Roulston made his move, Bauer looked to jump across to repeat his sprint finish to the 2010 title, but he ran out of real estate.
“I am exhausted,” Bauer said. “Anything but the win here is disappointing especially after a hard, hard day. I just had nothing in the kick. I completely cramped up when he (Roulston) went.
“We can say what we like about not having an ideal build up but it was the same for Roly (Roulston). We have to do the same season. It is not ideal but it is the same for Aussies and same for Kiwis and there’s no point making excuses.”
There was plenty of joy for the young Christchurch rider, Davison, who not only clung with the two World Pro Tour stars for the entire journey, but even fought back after being dropped on the penultimate climb up Dyers Pass Road.
“Just coming around that last corner with those two guys was a dream come true. I watched them in the Tour de France a couple of years ago over there and to be riding alongside them today was just awesome,” Davison said.
“They were having a bit of banter between themselves and I was just holding on for dear life to be fair. There wasn’t much talk coming from me.”
It was a magical effort from Davison, who nearly died after being bitten by a spider in Europe last year, while training with triathlete Nicky Samuels.
The national under-23 honours went to Te Awamutu professional Hayden McCormick, who out-sprinted defending champion James Oram and fellow New Zealand junior representative Dion Smith.
The trio were in the third chase pack and finished six minutes down on the winners.
It was an outstanding victory for the 19-year-old who rides for the Lotto Belisol development team in Europe.
“I didn’t know really how I’d go. I thought I had a chance to win and it was always going to be if I could get up the hills okay then I’d be able to win the race…I don’t like leaving it to the sprint but I backed myself. As you can see by how many people finished, it’s a really, really hard day out.”
There were 16 finishes from the 72 starters over the tough terrain and with the strong nor-westerly winds.
Elite men, 185km: Hayden Roulston (Trek Factory Team, Christchurch) 4:40.39, 1; Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp, Takaka) same time, 2; Tom Davison (Scotty Browns Vision Systems, Christchurch) at 1 second, 3; Jason Christie (Breads of Europe-All About Plumbing, Tinwald) at 2min 28sec, 4; James Williamson (L&M Ricoh, Alexandra) at 2:39, 5.
Under-23: Hayden McCormick (Lotto Belisol, Te Awamutu) 4:47.31, 1; Dion Smith (Auckland) same time, 2; James Oram (Auckland) same time, 3.