Counties Manukau top club at Vantage Age Group National Cycling Champs
Amid a plethora of cycling luminaries, it was two lesser lights in Nelson’s Joel MacMillan and Kapiti’s Katie Richards who claimed the senior titles on the final day of the Vantage Age Group National Road Cycling Championships in Waipukurau.
Around 600 riders competed in Cycling New Zealand’s first post-Covid national cycling event, with the three-day event attracting a number of Olympic track hopefuls, professionals waiting for their sport to open up and leading age group riders from under-15 to over-80 years.
The Under-19 honours also included official UCI status as New Zealand Champions, with the UCI national jerseys for elites and under23 awarded at the elite national championships.
Outstanding Canterbury prospect Jenna Borthwick, a multi-national age-group champion on the track, claimed the under-19 national jersey after a sprint finish with Henrietta Christie (Leeston) and Ella Wyllie (Counties Manukau) with a photo-finish required.
“I wasn’t expecting the win because I probably call myself more of a track rider,” said Borthwick.
“I just went with everyone and it eventually came down to a sprint finish and I thought ‘mean.’ I came here out of the track training camp although the world junior track championships have been postponed until April next year.
“I am unsure if they will go ahead. We are still getting some racing in with the National Track Series which is awesome racing with the elite riders. I see my future on the track and love the pursuits and the team culture on the track is awesome.”
The final race saw Motukaraka rider Jack Drage pip fellow Canterbury Time Trial clubmate Hamish Sadler in a sprint finish in the under-19 race over 115kms.
Both riders were given the same time with initial decision going the way of Sadler but over-turned in favour of Drage after checks by race commissaires. Both Drage and Sadler are part of Cycling New Zealand’s Upper South Island Performance Hub.
“I felt really good out there. I had a good nutrition plan which was great,” said Drage.
“There was an initial group of 10 but it whittled away until there was only two of us left and we fought it out in the sprint.”
The combined senior and under-23 men’s field battled over 115kms, with one short and three full loops of the country circuit that featured two climbs on each lap.
A group of nine riders went clear in the combined men’s race with MacMillan (Tasman Wheelers) outlasting Aaron Gate (Auckland Central), the former omnium track world champion, and his fellow Black Spoke pro teammate, James Oram (Auckland Central), in the sprint finish for the senior honours. They were followed home by Alex Heaney (Te Awamutu), Joel Yates (Manawatu), and local Waipukurau rider, Regan Gough, another member of the Vantage elite track squad.
The podium finishers in the under-23 category were also part of this break with 2018 junior world champion team pursuiter Bailey O’Donnell from Ashburton out-kicking last year’s New Zealand Under-19 road representative Xander White (Te Awamutu) and Logan Currie (Canterbury Track), who competed in the world championships last year.
The women’s race for seniors and under-23 over three full laps (98kms) split with a nine-strong bunch dictating the final outcome.
Richards from the Kapiti club won by the narrowest of margins in 2:48:48, edging local Hawkes Bay star Kirsty McCallum (Ramblers) and Alicia Evans (Counties Manukau).
The time trial winner Georgia Perry and fellow Te Awamutu Sports rider Bronwyn McGregor, who won the bronze in the time trial, finished in fourth and fifth respectively.
Te Awamutu Sports club handicapper and local coach Blair Taylor enjoyed celebration on the bike with an impressive two minute victory in the Masters 1 (35-39 years) race over 98kms with Counties Manukau rider Stuart Holder equally dominant in winning the Masters 2 crown.
Local Cycling Central Hawkes Bay rider Erin Wolland and Wanganui’s Catherine McMurray were the respective women’s winners over Masters 1 and Masters 2 respectively.
Counties Manukau club took out the NZACA Road Championship Points Shield from Te Awamutu Sports.