World Champions descend on Christchurch for Vantage Criterium Nationals

Road & Track

A cluster of world champions will light up the inner-city streets of Christchurch this weekend for the Vantage Criterium National Championships.

Riders with 10 World Championship rainbow jerseys between them will compete in the exciting Vantage Criterium Nationals around a 1km circuit alongside the Avon River on Sunday 15 November.

They include three elite track world champions in current points champion Corbin Strong, 2019 omnium champion Campbell Stewart and 2013 omnium world champion Aaron Gate. The trio, all part of the Vantage elite men’s track squad, showed great form in last week’s Tour of Southland, all three winning stages with Gate claiming his second overall Tour victory.

Added to this are seven riders who have won junior track world championship honours including double winner Laurence Pithie and Waikato’s Ally Wollaston who will defend their respective elite titles on Sunday.

Pithie, still just 18, will be again looking for plenty of hometown support when he chases a second criterium title after his exciting sprint victory last year.

“It is going to be a really high quality and super-fast race for sure,” said Pithie. “Last year it was awesome being able to race with a home crowd, mates from school who would not usually watch cycling came along because it was in Christchurch. I had my family there and the cycling community were there in force too.”

The teenage tyro out-sprinted the elite field last year, but with the track stars in the field, he will need different tactics on Sunday.

“This year it will need to be more of a long-range attack because I can’t match those track boys in their top-end power.”

The 40-strong elite men’s field will provide plenty of action including last year’s runner-up, Ethan Batt, who is part of the Black Spoke Pro Cycling team, and two former junior world champions from Christchurch in Josh Scott and Bailey O’Donnell.

There will be interest in outstanding Auckland professional James Oram (Black Spoke) who third in the Tour of Southland; Nick Kergozou, another member of the Vantage elite track squad, and a trio of talented Cantabrians in Hugo Jones, Ollie Jones and mountain biker Ben Oliver. Ollie Jones and Oliver impressed to finish fifth and seventh respectively in the Tour of Southland.

Wollaston is another member of the Vantage elite track squad and like Pithie is another super-talented teenager who impressed with a final sprint to win the elite title last year.

She will expect strong competition from her older sister Nina Wollaston, who is a pilot in Paralympics NZ high performance programme; fellow Vantage elite rider Nicole Shields and West Coast’s Sharlotte Lucas, who rides for the crack TIBCO professional team in USA and Europe. She has recently returned from racing on the World Tour in Europe and keen to improve on her third placing last year.

There are a number of young riders of interest including the Christchurch trio of national junior time trial champion Henrietta Christie (Christchurch), Georgia Danford, who was highly ranked in the Herald Sun Tour in Australia last year for her Velo Project team, and Upper South Performance Hub rider Annamarie Lipp, who represented New Zealand at the junior track world championships last year.

They are joined by Stella Nightingale (Auckland), a former Mike Greer Homes rider who competed in the junior road race at the world championships in the wet last year, while fellow Aucklander Olivia Ray will be of interest after three years in college in USA where she won four gold medals at the USA Collegiate Road Nationals.

Auckland’s Alicia Evans returns from riding for the Maltum LSK team in Europe including some World Tour starts, while Kapiti’s Katie Richards won the senior road race honours at the national age championships.

Watch too for Christchurch mother Ruth Robertson, a member of the strong Velo Project squad; national under-19 representative Emma Smith from Christchurch and Methven teenager Brea Roderick, a triathlon Youth Olympian.

There are over 140 riders competing with the street race starting at 2pm, and races for Under-17 and Under-19 categories with the elite women racing over 35 minutes from 4.50pm and the elite men over 45 minutes from 5.35pm.

The start-finish is near the Bridge of Remembrance on Cambridge Terrace and takes in a 1km course over Cashel, Montreal and Gloucester streets.

It is adjacent to the bars and restaurants of the famous Oxford Street, and with more cafes and bars lining the proposed course, it will make for a spectator-friendly, fast-paced afternoon of entertainment.

There are road closures in place with details on www.ccc.govt.nz.criterium.

The Vantage Criterium National Championships will be streamed live at: https://youtu.be/Afv4x0BFbJA

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