Christchurch cyclist Tom Hubbard from the Homestyle Cycling team will face some strong challenges to retain his elite men's lead as the fifth round of the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series is raced near Queenstown tomorrow.
Riders in the elite, masters and women's races face a challenging 25km circuit in the Wakatipu Basin in the McKenzie & Willis Classic, including two key climbs that will prove decisive to the racing.
The elite men will complete five laps for a distance of 129km while the master's men and senior women will do four laps and cover 103km.
Hubbard, who holds a slim series lead over Dunedin's Joe Chapman (L&M Group Racing) and the previous rounds winner Sam Horgan (Benchmark Homes), has not raced on the circuit before but says he knows it's tough.
"I've heard it's quite hard but I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"It's been great to wear the series leader's jersey and our young Homestyle team is a group of young guys who have found defending the leader's jersey exciting and they have ridden really well to honour it."
Hubbard said he expects Horgan and Chapman in particular to take the racing to him.
"They're the two guys lying closest to me on the points table and they both have lots of experience I'm sure they'll put to good use on Saturday."
He also noted there are four riders lining up on Saturday who have recently returned from six months in Europe with the BikeNZ endurance track team, saying he expects Hamish Schreurs (Benchmark Homes), Invercargill based H&J Smith's team mates Cameron Karwowski and Pieter Bulling and Dylan Kennett (Breads of Europe - All About Plumbing) to all go hunting for the round win.
Hubbard's Homestyle team holds the Elite and Under 23 classifications leader's jerseys as well as leading the team's classification points table.
Olympic track cyclist Lauren Ellis holds a narrow lead over her Benchmark Homes teammate Sharlotte Lucas heading into Saturday's women's racing.
Both riders have been consistently placed near the top of the field in every race to date, sharing one win each so far in the series.
Sophie Williamson (H&J Smiths) returns to race in the series after a stint in the United States riding for women's pro team Vanderkitten.
After a slow start this year due to injury Williamson had good results that were capped off with a win in round three of the series where she beat Ellis in a tight uphill sprint to the line.
Round four winner Hayley Mercer (Benchmark Homes) and Invercargill's Laura Fairweather (Altherm Window Systems) should also feature. The Benchmark Homes women's team holds an impressive 36 point lead over the Altherm Window Systems team.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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