Williamson holds too many guns
James Williamson's class shone through as he took victory in the Milford Mountain Classic alpine bike race on Saturday.
The Distinction Hotels-sponsored event made a welcome return to the full 120km distance from Milford to Te Anau after last year's race had to be shortened because of concerns about rockfall around the Homer Tunnel.
The pace was on from the start, with the field stringing out in the shadow of the 20km climb to the tunnel.
Queenstown veteran multisporter Jim Hawkridge, a noted climber, powered his way to the top of the climb to take the King of the Mountain honours, with Williamson in pursuit and defending champion Tom Hubbard behind them.
Williamson and Hawkridge have done plenty of riding together in Central Otago club races and they worked hard to press home their advantage, building a lead that would never be challenged.
Williamson dropped Hawkridge when the senior rider began to tire with 10km to go and went on to take a comfortable win.
It was a welcome result for the former national road champion, who finished fifth at the 2014 nationals earlier this month.
As well as his sister Sophie, a professional rider with the United States-based Vanderkitten team, coming home as the first female, Williamson is in a good cycling frame of mind after having his past two professional teams fold on him due to a lack of finance.
"Things have been a bit all over the show due to those circumstances," Williamson said.
"I'm just looking forward to having a bit of consistency."
Williamson will ride for the New Zealand-based L&M-Ricoh Racing team this year, taking in the Benchmark Series before heading to the United States and then Australia before returning home to try and make an impact in the SBS Bank Tour of Southland.
Saturday's win will take pride of place on his cv for now.
The Milford Classic was a challenging race, he said.
"That climb would be as hard as anything in New Zealand. It would be as hard as the Coronet Peak climb in the Tour of Southland and I don't think a lot of people realise just how tough it is. There aren't many climbs where you gain 1000m."
The Homer Hundy podium, a new 100km addition to the race starting from the Homer Tunnel, was an all-masters affair, with Dan Bentley winning in 2:38:47.
Kylea Gough won a tightly contested 65km Eglinton Challenge, edging James West by one second, with Nicola Stevens third, three seconds in arrears.
- The Southland Times