New Zealand's Hayden Roulston showed he is back with a strong performance in the elite men's road race at the UCI World Road Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Just over a year ago, Roulston was forced out of the sport after being diagnosed with a heart condition. Now he has his condition under control so well that he was picked to fill a spot on the New Zealand team after injuries to injuries to national champion Julian Dean, Tim Gudsell and Greg Henderson forced them out of consideration.
Former Team Discovery Channel racer Roulston and European-based Kiwi professionals Glen Chadwick and Jeremy Vennell were among the 131 riders who were lapped in the 247km race on the hilly course in Stuttgart. The trio made it 200km, but failed to hold on when the pace went up a notch with 50 km to go. All three officially did not finish.
"It was a tall order to pick someone out of a New Zealand domestic winter to compete at this level," said Bike NZ road coach Jacques Landry of Roulston's late selection.
"Hayden has not ridden in this sort of company for nearly two years and while he could not stay with the pace in those final three laps, he positioned himself in the bunch well and showed his potential at this level. Let's hope he did enough to be noticed here and can pick up a professional contract again to ride fulltime in Europe.
"He is a phenomenon," said Landry. "If Hayden can pick up a fulltime professional tour contract in Europe then our chances in Beijing definitely increase.
The race was one of attrition, with only 72 riders finishing out of 203 starters. The demanding course took its toll with two climbs on each of 14 laps in the 247km race, although Elliott said it will be no easier for the New Zealanders next year with the course in Beijing even tougher.
Landry was ok with the performances of Roulston's team-mates. "Glen and Jeremy rode well to that 200km mark and they don't get to ride this distance at this level. Overall I am not too disappointed because they all rode well until the point they got spat out of the main group. It is a good indication of where they are at."