Jo Kiesanowski has dream double on her mind
Jo Kiesanowski has two big hopes for the next few weeks.
One is to win her second national road cycling title and take the instantly-identifiable national champions jersey back with her to the United States; the other is for her beloved Seattle Seahawks to win the Superbowl.
The cycling trumps the American Football, just, and she will today attempt to win her second national road racing title, 11 years since her first.
"I didn't compete in this race every year, but it would be great to win it again, to show my consistency and ability over the years."
Kiesanowski, 34, lives in both Seattle and Colorado Springs and is about to embark on her seventh season with US-based professional team TIBCO.
The Christchurch local is one of a handful of contenders to win what is expected to be a closely fought 120.5km race today.
She's in good nick too, having won a couple of stages and finished second in the recent Tour de Vineyards in Nelson.
There is a feeling of unfinished business for Kiesanowski who, while racing in front of her home crowd for the first time in years last year, lost a sprint to winner Courteney Lowe.
She was well led out by Linda Villumsen, but pipped by Lowe.
Kiesanowski was fresh off three years building towards the Olympics and plenty of time on the track, but feels stronger this time around.
"It was a really long sprint last time, but I've definitely been working hard on my sprint this time and have done a lot of gym work.
"It was hard for me last time to get so close and with 50m to go people thought I was going to win. But I was happy to come second too, to do so well, because it's hard for me to be in peak form in January having to race through to September."
In early February, just in time for the Superbowl, she will return stateside to start the northern summer season where her team will race in both the United States and Europe.
And she's still loving the professional life, though the re-introduction of a women's Tour de France and pay parity with the men on classics and tour races would make it more appealing, she said.
Meanwhile, James Williamson hopes tomorrow's 183.7km men's race is the start of some much-needed good fortune.
The Alexandra rider is the only non-World Pro Tour rider to have won on the tough Cashmere course, in 2012, upsetting a host of more fancied riders. But since then the 24-year-old's luck has gone from bad to worse.
He was a member of Pure Black Racing until it folded in 2012. Last year he scrambled to join a swag of Kiwis including two other ex-PBR riders in Node4 Pro Cycling, a British-based Pro Continental team.
Half way through their 2013 season, the sponsor stopped paying and the team fell apart.
"It was a less than ideal experience especially after Pure Black Racing," Williamson said.
"The upside was that we did get to compete in some key races before things turned sour. But at the time it was quite stressful.
"Overall it was a useful experience and I am glad we at least got a chance to compete."
There is some light at the end of the tunnel; Williamson's good friend James Canny, a road rider, lawyer and promoter, has established a New Zealand-based trade team, New Zealand Cycling Project.
"It's something James has been working on for a while and is just about set for a formal launch with some sponsors backing the project. We will stay based in New Zealand but looking at some overseas racing."
But first is tomorrow's big race where Williamson will be one of a number of riders trying to beat title-holder and crowd favourite Hayden Roulston.
Strength up the Dyers Pass hill, which the riders climb on 10 of the 12 laps, would be key, he said.
"It is about repeat efforts up the climb. Sure you have to be able to ride the distance but the climb is where they all drop off. It is a race of attrition and it favours good legs on the day far more than race tactics."
- © Fairfax NZ News