Double under-23 world champion mountain biker Sam Gaze produced a stunning performance to defend his road honours at the Vantage Criterium National Championships around the streets of Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore.
While Gaze out-kicked his fellow breakaway pair of Campbell Stewart and Sam Dobbs, Cycling New Zealand track star Raquel Sheath pipped a packed field in a sprint finish to grab her second elite women’s title.
Gaze, the Specialized mountain bike professional, pushed clear in an audacious solo attack early in the 45-minute event before waiting for young guns Stewart and Dobbs to join him as the trio built an unassailable 25 second lead over a talented field strewn around the 2km circuit.
Dobbs, who has recently joined the Cycling New Zealand track programme after a road season in Europe, took the first tilt at a break but in the end Gaze, fresh off third place in the Tour of Southland, held off Stewart, the Commonwealth Games medallist.
“It’s surprising because I’ve only been back in training four weeks including a lap of the South and I wasn’t expecting too much. But it’s good when the legs turn out well and I love racing in front of so many fans here in Takapuna.
“With the performance in Southland and now this, I am perfectly on track. Things are looking better than I could have hoped. My coach may not be so happy that I went so hard today but it’s impossible to sit back when you can race in an event like this here in Takapuna.”
New Zealand elite endurance track rider Holly Edmondston set the early pace in the elite women’s race and mid-race had opened a six-second lead which she held until 27 minutes of the 35-minute race. Her Cycling New Zealand track teammate Bryony Botha took over at the front before another member of the endurance track squad, Michaela Drummond, put the field under pressure.
Drummond pushed to a 12 second lead with one lap to go and was only caught 50 metres from the finish with Sheath timing her sprint perfectly to edge out her rivals in the bunch sprint that spread across the road. She finished ahead of the Barfoot and Thompson Performance Hub rider Georgia Danford and Canterbury’s Sharlotte Lucas to claim the honours.
“That was amazing. It means a lot to me to win that. It means I can race in the New Zealand jersey next year,” said Sheath.
“It was the highest quality that I have ever raced in New Zealand which makes the win all that more special. When I saw the start list I knew it was going to be a bloody hard race and it was.
“I’ve come off the World Cup and then racing with Michaela (Drummond) in the London Six Day event which really primed me for this.”
Elite Men: Sam Gaze (Specialized) 45:26.75, 1; Campbell Stewart (Team Wiggins) same time, 2; Sam Dobbs (Waikato) 46:30.40, 3.
Elite women: Racquel Sheath (Waikato) 37:51.22, 1; Georgia Danford (Barfoot & Thompson Performance Hub Auckland) same time, 2; Sharlotte Lucas (Canterbury) same time, 3.
Under-17 Men: Charlie Tattersfield (Hawkes Bay) 19:07.16, 1; Kaio Lart (Nelson) same time, 2; Jack Carswell (Te Awamutu) same time 3.
Under-17 Girls: Prudence Fowler (Barfoot & Thompson Performance Hub Auckland) 22:03:.92, 1; Lucy Buckeridge Auckland) 22:09.88, 2; Emma Hannan (Auckland) 22:10.18, 3.
Men B Grade: Ollie Simcock-Smith 19:28.79, 1; Todd Hewlett 19:29.44, 2; Max Newton 19:29.79, 3.
Men Street Race: Gordon Bearman 21:44.72, 1; Aidan Nicholas 21:45.42, 2; Hamish Gee 21:47.93, 3.