Rushlee Buchanan wins second road race title
Te Awamutu cyclist Rushlee Buchanan knows how to win the hard way, and apparently that's just how she likes to do it.
The London Olympian and 2010 track world championship medallist showcased her versatility, aggressive philosophy and fighting qualities in winning her second national women's road race title in Christchurch today, leading from almost the start to finish on the gruelling Cashmere hills circuit.
Buchanan, 25, was part of a three-person break early in eight-lap, 120km race but while Lauren Ellis and then yesterday's time-trial champion Jaime Nielsen eventually fell off the pace, the 2010 national champion stayed firm at the front.
That was until the final lap, when five-time world time-trial championship medallist Linda Villumsen switched her legs into overdrive, catching a seemingly fading Buchanan with the finish line almost in sight.
It appeared to be a beautifully timed burst from Villumsen, the star of New Zealand women's road cycling, but Buchanan wasn't done just yet.
Despite six tough climbs up Dyers Pass Rd and setting the pace all day, she somehow found enough gas in the tank to surge past one of the best in the business, passing Villumsen to take line honours in a deserved and popular win.
"I wasn't thinking about the finish line until the last corner," an emotional Buchanan said. "I don't know where I got that (burst) from but I just had to put my head down and give it everything. Apparently I love to do it the hard way."
As they did in the time trial, Villumsen finished second and Otago's Reta Trotman third.
Defending champion Courteney Lowe pulled out mid-race with injury while local favourite and New Zealand road veteran Jo Kiesanowski was in the chasing group all day but couldn't go with Villumsen when she attacked on the final lap and finished seventh.
It was a good weekend for the "trackies". After her win yesterday Nielsen was in contention for the double before her legs gave way, but Buchanan credited her Waikato and New Zealand Olympic teammate for all the work she did earlier in the race.
"We're team-mates on the track and we had each other's backs. It was just a race of attrition out there, the course is so hard and I knew I had to go early to have a chance," she said.
"I was disappointed (when Nielsen dropped off), the head wind sucks. I just had to give it everything. Then Linda passed me and you just go somewhere where you don't normally go (mentally)."
Versatility is a handy asset when it comes to selection for teams to the Olympics and Commonwealth Games so Buchanan's win will have been noted by the national selectors, with an eye to the latter in Glasgow in July-August.
Villumsen had to settle for silver for the second day in succession but she still reckoned it had been a good week.
"For the time-trial I didn't have the best legs and I didn't really have the climbing legs today either, but I kept it steady," she said.
"The goal was to try and get the (national champion's) jersey but we'll try to take it again next year."