Closely-contested Tour of Timaru begins
One day was enough to see a women's favourite emerge, while it was hard to split the men during the opening three stages of The Tour of Timaru inline skating event yesterday.
A warm day greeted competitors as the tour went to Tekapo for the first time.
The three stages consisted of a 500m race, a 1000m hillclimb, and a 3.5km race, with Tekapo's Alpine Springs and Canal Rd being the two venues for the opening day.
South Canterbury's Samantha Michael made the perfect start to her campaign, winning each of the three stages convincingly, to become the favourite for the A grade women's title.
She took the maximum 96 points, with Upper Hutt's Stephanie Challis second, on 67 points, and Manawatu's Tegan Roffe third, a further nine points back.
South Canterbury's Analiese Le Roy is seventh, while team-mate, and medal hopeful, Emily van der Heyden, having had a mixed day after she opted out of the first race to rest her legs, finished second in the 500m, but then had a forgettable 1000m hillclimb.
Christchurch's Mark McDonald and Upper Hutt's Anthony Nalder could not be separated after the first day. The pair lead the men's A grade on 77 points, four points clear of Manawatu's Shane Mihaere.
The even nature of the field was expected after last year's champion, Peter Michael, did not defend his title.
Nalder was a consistent yesterday, finishing second in the 3.5km race along Canal Rd and was runner-up in the 1000m hillclimb, which McDonald won. McDonald also finished second in the 500m.
Mihaere caused a surprise in having enough energy in his legs to take out the 3.5km race.
In the women's B grade section, South Canterbury's Leah McDonald lies third and Temuka's Cailee Autridge is currently fourth.
South Canterbury's Finley O'Connor and Jan Kuepper are second and third respectively in the B grade boys' competition.
In the re-introduced quad competition, for skates with two wheels on each side, Dunedin's Brett McCormack leads on 91 points.
The strong Australian contingent this year are expected to become contenders as the four-day tour progresses.
Today will see the A grade and B grade skaters race in a points eliminator in Waimate at 10am, before the rest of the field joins in, as the tour comes home to the Timaru Skating Rink at Caroline Bay for a 100m stage and a 300m time-trial in the evening.
The Timaru Herald