Young Otago rider Ella Harris impressed with a hard-fought performance to finish mid-pack in a gruelling 149km elite women’s race at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire.
In her first elite world championship, the 21-year-old finished in the second chase pack in 59th placing, nine minutes behind a remarkable solo performance from Dutch star Annemiek van Vlerten, who rode over 100km on her own in the lead to add the road title to two rainbow jerseys in the time trial.
Harris, in her first year on the World Tour for the Canyon SRAM professional team, recovered from delays after a puncture early in the race to ride back on over the major climb, with the group ultimately finishing 9:53 behind the winner.
With the New Zealand support car well back in the convoy, Harris initially received help from the neutral service who provided a spare bike after not having the correct sized disc rotor. The Cycling New Zealand crew fixed her bike and she stopped again to swap to her race bike before clawing her way back to the peloton over the major climb.
By that stage the all-powerful Dutch squad had ramped up the pace with van Vleuten pushing clear at the front to win from fellow Dutch rider and former world champion Anna van der Breggen and Mitchelton Scott teammate Amanda Spratt from Australia.
“Ella fought back well and hung in there. Once the pace had gone on from the Dutch, she did well to get back and ultimately finish in that second pack,” said Cycling New Zealand director sportif, Craig Geater. “For a young rider in her first elite worlds, it was a gutsy and impressive ride.”
Harris gained her break with the German-based Canyon SRAM professional team this year after winning a global online contest through the Zwift Academy. She has enjoyed a superb first season, winning the young rider classification at the Vuelta Burgos along with two other top-three finishes in the white jersey category in Spain and USA.
It proved a tougher day for Bigla professional Mikayla Harvey, who has been ill in the lead-up to the championships, and was unable to match the pace over the tough and unrelenting lumpy test through the Yorkshire Dales and did not finish.
Attention now turns to the elite men’s race which is a massive 280km test from Leeds to Harrogate with five big climbs before reaching the 14km circuit at Harrogate which has virtually no flat sections.
Bora Hansgrohe professional Shane Archbold has made the late dash to Yorkshire to replace an ill George Bennett, flattened after riding two Grand Tours and a bout of antibiotics, to join Jack Bauer, Paddy Bevin and Dion Smith in the Vantage New Zealand elite team.
Archbold, preparing to compete in China, had to extricate his passport from the Chinese Embassy in Madrid, while a team member official travelling to Harrogate was able to bring his race bike.
Results, Elite Women Road Race, 149kms: Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) 4:06.05, 1; Anna van der Breggen (NED) at 2:24, 2; Amanda Spratt (AUS) same time, 3. Also NZers: Ella Harris at 9:54, 59; Mikayla Harvey dnf.