Te Awamutu's Rushlee Buchanan turned in a gutsy performance to capture her first RaboPlus national road racing title on a testing course in Christchurch today.
The 21-year-old national criterium champion, who races for team Colavita/Baci in the United States, took charge of the 123 kilometre race at the halfway stage and never looked back.
In the last of the eight laps she had to withstand a bold challenge from former Dane, Linda Villumsen who has recently switched her nationality to that of New Zealand. Villumsen chopped a deficit of more than six minutes in half as she turned in a brilliant performance on the difficuly Dyers Pass Rd hill climb. However, she left her run too late and finished 3:06 behind the Te Awamutu woman.
"I'm ecstatic," Buchanan said. "I didn't think about the finish line until I turned the corner for the last time. I didn't think for one second I'd be able to win the title but I wanted to go at my own pace uphill and tried to keep the tempo going.
"I left everything out on the road today. This is the biggest and most important win of my career."
Villumsen found the hill climb on the course, based on that used for the 1974 Commonwealth Games road race, "a killer".
"I didn't feel so good out there today; it was a struggle. As well as the hill I was still feeling the effects of the time trial yesterday."
She said with no-one from the peloton pushing the pace it became very difficult to make inroads into Buchanan's lead.
Third place-getter Kaytee Boyd, of Auckland, was thrilled with her showing. She said she and Villumsen talked tactics during the race and decided to share the job of trying to catch Buchanan.
"I went first, got caught and then Linda attacked. When she'd had enough, I took another turn; it was good teamwork.
"The hill climbs weren't as hard as I thought. Most of the girls I know were scared of them, but it's all about how hard you can suffer."
Boyd finished 1:05 behind her new Auckland teammate.
The first significant breakaway occurred in the second lap when national points series champion Serena Sheridan stepped up the pace. The Hawke's Bay rider who represents East Coast North Island opened up a gap of 2:06 on the peloton by the start of the third lap.
By the end of that lap however, she was being pushed by Aucklander Marina Duvnjak and Buchanan. At the halfway stage the two challengers caught Sheridan who hit the wall on her next hill climb and faded.
Buchanan then hit her straps with Duvnjak more than 2 minutes in arrears and another 4:35 to the bunch. By the bell lap Buchanan enjoyed a 6:40 advantage over Villumsen and Wellington's Rachel Mercer but she had no chance to cruise as Villumsen wound up for a last-ditch assault.
Thirty-six riders contested the event. Waikato/BoP's Sonia Waddell finished 11th, national time-trial champion and defending road race champion Melissa Holt was 16th and Sheridan finished 21st. Canterbury's Joanne Kiesanowski was among the late withdrawals. She suffered mild concussion after a fall mid-week.
The men's race over 186kms on the same course starts at 10.30am tomorrow.
|1||Rushlee Buchanan (New Zealand)||3:46:15|
|2||Linda Villumsen (New Zealand)||0:03:06|
|3||Kaytee Boyd (New Zealand)||0:04:11|
|4||Rachel Mercer (New Zealand)||0:04:28|
|5||Karen Fulton (New Zealand)||0:05:02|
|6||Emma Crum (New Zealand)|
|7||Courteney Lowe (New Zealand)|
|8||Toni Bradshaw (New Zealand)|
|9||Tracy Best (New Zealand)|
|10||Sia Svendsen (New Zealand)||0:05:05|
|11||Sonia Waddell (New Zealand)||0:06:49|
|12||Donna Sibley (New Zealand)|
|13||Nicole Begg (New Zealand)|
|14||Lauren Ellis (New Zealand)||0:07:10|
|15||Emma Petersen (New Zealand)|
|16||Melissa Holt (New Zealand)|
|17||Melanie Burke (New Zealand)||0:10:05|
|18||Tracy Clark (New Zealand)||0:10:08|
|19||Bronwen Fraser (New Zealand)||0:10:11|
|20||Jeannie Kuhajek (New Zealand)||0:10:14|
|21||Serena Sheridan (New Zealand)||0:10:20|
|22||Josie Giddens (New Zealand)||0:14:27|
|DNF||Lana King (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Cushla McKay (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Harriet Smithies (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Nimesha Smith (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Sara MacDonald (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Jessica Jolly (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Marina Duvnjak (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Gayle Brownlee (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Kate Chilcott (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Yvette Hill-Willis (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Gabrielle Vermunt (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Gemma Dudley (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Emily Collins (New Zealand)|
|DNS||Joanne Kiesanowski (New Zealand)|
|DNS||Laura Green (New Zealand)|
|DNS||Rosy McCall (New Zealand)|
|DNS||Naila Hassan (New Zealand)|
|DNS||Kerri-Anne Torckler (New Zealand)|