This Sunday the Vantage Criterium National Championships return to Takapuna and we’re barely able to contain our excitement at what’s to come this weekend. A big afternoon of racing awaits and in the elite women’s race Rushlee Buchanan will face a formidable field if she is to make it five wins at Crit Nationals. Here are our five riders to look out for in the elite women’s race.
It’s just not possible to look passed a rider who has won the Criterium National Championships over and over and over and over again . . . . was that too many overs? Anyway I think we’ve made our point pretty clear, Rushlee Buchanan is the undisputed queen of the crit. What everyone else lining up for in the women’s race simply cannot deny is that Buchanan not only knows how to win this race, but she knows how to win in multiple scenarios. Last year Buchanan made it four Crit National wins, what’s to stop her from taking a fifth?
Over the Tour of America’s Dairyland at the end of June, Sharlotte Lucas’ consistency over the eleven-day criterium stage race saw her eventually finish second overall. Lucas has had a massive year which included an Oceania championship win and 4th in the Commonwealth Games road race. The newest signing to the highest levels of cycling with team TIBCO-SVB – a former home of Kiwis Buchanan, Kiesanowski and Collins – one of New Zealand’s most experienced crit racers in 2018 will doubtless bring a big finishing kick to Takapuna.
On the track Kirstie has been busy cementing her status within the team pursuit squad, a squad that has taken back-to-back World Cup medals. Any one of the women’s endurance track team could so easily walk away with the Crit National title, it’s a team that have really come into their own in 2018; but after finishing sixth in 2017 and second in 2016 could James do to the Crit Nationals this year what Michael Vink did to the Tour of Southland last weekend?
Last year Racquel Sheath went up to Takapuna in defence of the national title she won in 2016. It was the champion vs champion contest that we’d been looking forward to as Racquel and Rushlee went head-to-head and they emerged first and second in a sprint to the line; Sheath just missing a second consecutive title. This time Sheath has had a different path through the track, taking on the London Six Day and points racing, elimination, tempo, scratch racing and teaming up with Michaela Drummond on her way to finishing 7th overall. The pure pace is most certainly there for Sheath; a sure fire danger on Sunday.
There are few things we enjoy more in this job than seeing athletes rise again and come back to form. Holly Edmondston has been a story of triumph in the last 12 months or so as she’s patiently bided her time back to full fitness from injury. It was a treat to see Edmondston back on the road at the first round of the Team Championship, where Edmondston and Velo Project won the team time trial and then Edmondston bossed the elite women’s road race, and it’s been a pleasure to continue seeing her bed back into the World Cup scene with two medals in the team pursuit squad in France and Canada.