Christchurch professional Hayden Roulston will be hoping to celebrate his 33rd birthday by joining elite company in next month's national road cycling championships in Canterbury.
Victory on the 184km multi-lap course over the Cashmere Hills on January 12 would give Roulston his fourth elite national road cycling title and in turn join a select group. The Trek Factory Team professional would join Nick Carter and Jack Swart on four wins and trail only the gregarious Gordon McCauley who has five victories.
Roulston turns 33 on the day of the time trial, January 10, and victory in the road race would again give him the opportunity to wear the national jersey in his exploits on the world tour.
He will be joined on the startline by fellow world tour riders including last year's runner-up George Bennett (Nelson), who has moved from Roulston's team to the Cannondale Pro Cycling, team-mate Jesse Sergent and Garmin-Sharp rider Jack Bauer.
It's usually tougher for the European-based professionals to prepare for the national championship, although Bauer says that the world pro tour is becoming a year-round proposition.
"I started racing in January and did not finish until late October so it's a huge year," Bauer said.
"I'd like to have a longer break but we have to be ready and in-form to race in the Tour Down Under the week after the nationals.
"From there it's the Sun Tour in Australia and on it goes into the classics and back in Europe.
"It's crept up on me a little but I have five weeks until the race so I expect to be reasonably fit. I don't like to ride in any race unless I am in shape."
He said the biggest challenge for him and fellow world tour riders are the trade teams who can gang up with team tactics.
"That was the case for the Radioshack trio last time. I've heard a couple of the trade teams have some team plans, so we will have to see how that pans out."
Bauer, the 2010 winner in the first year on the Christchurch circuit, has moved his base to Christchurch for the next few weeks before heading to Australia.
Roulston and Sergent are back in the training seat, joining new-look re-named Trek Factory Team in their training camp in Spain this week, while Bennett is in Italy for the training camp for his new Cannondale Pro Cycling outfit.
The 50-strong peloton also includes 2012 winner James Williamson, two-time under-23 winner Michael Vink, national criterium champion Michael Northey and London Olympic track riders Shane Archbold, Westley Gough and Marc Ryan.
A smaller select women's field includes several pro tour riders led by five-time world championship medallist Linda Villumsen, her Wiggle-Honda team-mate Emily Collins, Be Pink young star Georgia Williams and the experienced TIBCO team riders Joanne Kiesanowski and Rushlee Buchanan.
The women's field, to race over 120km on January 11, also includes Olympic track riders Jaime Nielsen and Lauren Ellis.
There are 26 in the men's under-23 division led by defending champion and recent Tour of Southland winner, James Oram. Time trials for all divisions are on January 10, at Lincoln.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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