Sophie Williamson reversed last year's result in the Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling's elite women's 90km road race, beating last year's winner Reta Trotman in an exciting sprint finish today in Waipara, North Canterbury.
Seven women - pre-race favourites Williamson (H & J Smiths/Vanderkitten), Trotman (MaxxSOLAR), Linda Villumsen (Benchmark Homes/Wiggle Honda), Sharlotte Lucus (Benchmark Homes) and Karen Fulton (Fresh Choice) - got away early and worked well together to build a solid lead in challenging windy conditions.
"The wind definitely made it tough today," Williamson said. "It was like a team time trial all the way and the wind certainly made a race of it; I was pretty happy to get up for the win."
Trotman attacked up the Waikari climb 15km from the finish line but was hauled back in and the riders then resumed working together until Villumsen went to the front with 2km to go in an attempt to lead her team-mate Sharlotte Lucas out for the sprint.
Williamson, who lost last year's sprint finish to Trotman, was first to start her sprint and managed to hold off a fast finishing Trotman to win in 2hr 31min, with Fulton coming home third just ahead of Lucas.
Dunedin's Scott Thomas (L & M Group Racing) won the elite men's race, beating Richard Lawson (Benchmark Homes), Ryan Willis and Dan Barry (Node4) in a tight finish to win in 2hr 10min.
The four riders got away with Sam Horgan (Benchmark Homes) after 8km of racing and were working well together until Horgan punctured.
"I'm stoked to take out the win," Thomas said. "The wind did make it really tough but we all worked really well together and got a good lead although it did get down to 30 seconds at one stage but we kept rolling and the four of us just slugged out the last 20km."
The breakaway group attacked each other several times in the closing kilometres, with Ryan eventually establishing a break of 50m with less than 5km remaining, only getting caught with 2km left.
Thomas then attacked hard on a small incline straight after Ryan was caught, quickly jumping out to a small lead that he held to the finish line.
Justin Sims (Armitage Williams) showed a good turn of speed to beat Scott McDonnell (Thule) and Alex Nisbet (Armitage Williams) to win the sport men's race in 2hr 18min.
A break of five formed after 40km, which was whittled down to three after the climb out of Waikari.
It was an especially satisfying result for Sims after he crashed in the event last year.
"After Waikari, there was only three of us left and we just smacked it home. I had my team-mate with me, so we're pretty happy with the result."
North Canterbury's under-19 national mountainbiking representatives Craig and Ben Oliver dominated the 26km mountainbike event, finishing first and second, well clear of third-placed George Lucas.
The Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling continues at Canterbury University tomorrow with the tight and technical criterium racing mixed in with special events, including a children's race and the Free Wheelin Frenzy 150, a charity wheelchair race that raises awareness for the work done by the NZ Spinal Trust.
Last year's Wheelin Frenzy 150 winner, Jo Nicholls-Parker (the former mayoress of Christchurch), is returning to defend her hard fought title. She is being joined by Mayor Lianne Dalziel and former mayor Garry Moore, new Christchurch City councillor Raf Manji and spinal surgeon Raj Singhal.
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