While Rushlee Buchanan has been a consistent and persistent force in the elite women’s race, the men’s race at the Criterium National Championships has been notoriously difficult to predict. Sam Gaze took the title last year and Regan Gough the year before that. Here we look at five riders to look out for in Takapuna.
We’re getting to the point of having to seriously wonder if there’s anything this guy can’t do. He’s a two-time U23 world cross country champion, the 2018 Commonwealth Games cross country champion and last year decided to show up and claim Crit National honours. Oh, and he took third overall in Southland last weekend as well. Gaze is spoilt for choice when it comes to directions he could take in his career. Could he be Takapuna’s next Mike Northey?
From the Tour of Southland will come a throng of riders carrying form from a week’s hard racing to the streets of Takapuna. Few were more impressive than the U23 and king of the mountains champion who will line up in Auckland. Criterium racing here, as he and all other Southland alumni will know, is a wholly different kettle of fish to chasing KOM points over the space of several hundred kilometres. But get Batt in a breakaway and who can say how things might pan out over 45 minutes of racing.
Team Skoda Racing have been responsible for some of the best and brightest talents developed on these shores and the story of the team that won the junior world championship team pursuit is just one such example of their work paying off in spades. Finn Fisher-Black is well versed in their outfit and has a world title, a fourth place in the individual pursuit at the same championships, and a stint at the UK’s most prestigious junior stage race under his belt this year. Team Skoda Racing illuminated last year’s Crit Nationals, it’ll be more than a little interesting to see how their impact on this year’s race pans out.
It’s safe to say that this year has seen James Fouche do his U23 national road race champion’s jersey justice. The man who came third in last year’s Criterium Nationals produced six top ten performances in 2018 as well as victory in the mountains classification at Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux for Team WIGGINS. Fouche is strong, he’s versatile and he’s fearless on Takapuna’s narrow streets.
Should the weather turn to custard on Sunday I would be very interested to see how Joel fares. At the Thompson Bucks County Classic Joel showed himself to be one of our toughest as he spent the day out in the break and took third place across the line. He placed just shy of the top ten last year, but expect his year over in the States to show its worth as he, along with Ethan Batt, takes his US crit racing skills to our streets.