New Zealand road cycling champion Gordon McCauley catapulted into reckoning for the Lion Foundation National Points Series after winning the latest round in Hamilton.
McCauley, who won the national road title in nearby Morrinsville recently, cleared out from the breakaway pack eight km from the finish to win the Hamilton Classic, which was part of the Perry Foundation Rev 120 Cycling Festival.
The win elevates McCauley to third in the series with two rounds remaining, which gives him the opportunity to overhaul leader Jeremy Yates.
Former New Zealand representative Toni Bradshaw showed a welcome return to top form to capture the women's race when she led out one km from the finish.
Approximately 2,000 riders participated in the Rev 120 Cycling Festival as individuals and teams. The race started and finished in Hamilton and took in the towns of Cambridge, Matamata and Morrinsville.
McCauley (Avanti Subway) said he was uncertain of success after a slow start in the inclement weather. "It was pretty hard with the strong winds and rain for most of the day. For the first 40 km I did not feel too flash at all," McCauley said. "Gradually, I started to feel better and better and we managed to work our way up to the leaders. I just tried to lift the tempo with eight km to go and no-one came with me."
A group of four riders went clear early and were caught by a second group of four, including McCauley, at the 100km mark. The eight men, with Roman Van Uden (Team Pro Velo) and Mark Langlands (Ultimo Cycling), worked together until McCauley made his winning move.
In the bunch sprint for second, Van Uden finished ahead of Langlands, 27 seconds behind the winner.
The elite women quickly broke into a lead group of six riders who rode together throughout the 120km journey.
Only teenager Emma Petersen could follow Bradshaw's surge. Bradshaw managed to open a slight gap and decided to push on for the finish, winning in 3:46.36. Petersen continued her strong recent form and ended the day in second, ahead of Jeannie Kuhujak (Star & Garter Tasman).
Bradshaw described the race as a hard effort. "It was basically an individual race with just a few alliances out there today and really tough in those conditions but fun. I decided to give it a go one km from the finish and with 500m left I thought that I could do this, and held on." Bradshaw leaves shortly for Colorado where she will be based for professional team Lipsmacker for the US road season.
Kuhajek's third place is enough for her to move to second place in the series standings, behind fellow Star & Garter rider Serena Sheridan.
Morinsville's Eliot Crowther retains his lead in the under-23 points despite failing to finish today.
The penultimate round of the series is the Graperide in Marlborough on 11 April.