Over 100 riders braved the elements to contest the Cyclocross National Championships in Christchurch over the weekend, where two of the big names emerged victorious in front of a vocal, dedicated crowd.
The sanctioned event, part of Aotearoa Crossfest hosted by Southern Cross CX Club, was held for the first time since 2012 off the back of strong demand from the cyclocross community. The event programme included age-group racing alongside the UCI elite and junior races where national titles and jerseys were up for grabs.
The 3km course at Steam Scene, McLeans Island provided a perfect backdrop to showcase the sport of cyclocross and required riders to negotiate grass, roots, sand, gravel and planks, as well as the bitterly cold wind and sleeting rain, in a battle of attrition.
The elite men’s race was neck and neck between former New Zealand mountain bike representative Brendon Sharratt and Queensland-based Kiwi, Nick Miller. In the end, it was an emotional Sharratt who crossed the line 12 seconds ahead of Miller, with local rider Ollie Jones a further nine seconds back.
“There’s so many people to thank. Back in January, my coach said to me, do you want to go to Christchurch and I said ‘Yeah, let’s go,” Sharratt said.
“It’s just stunning. I love this sport so much and there’s so many cool people. I’ve been a part of bike racing for so many years, and this is the one I’ve wanted,” he said, motioning to his new national jersey.”
In the combined women’s race, Kate McIlroy went one better than her cross-country second place at the Altherm Mountain Bike National Championships to take the elite women’s title, two minutes ahead of Kim Hurst, one of the drivers behind the return of the national championships.
New Zealand Commonwealth and Olympic representative McIlroy describes her pathway into the sport as a case of curiosity.
“I heard it was a lot of fun and figured I’d give it a go. I jumped into the Hutt Cross series last round a few weeks ago and loved it so I thought, ‘Cool, let’s go to nationals.’
“Cyclocross is a combination of lot of things I’ve done, there’s road power, a bit of mountain bike skill that I’ve picked up, so it probably suits me the most,” said McIlroy.
“I would definitely love to do some more racing, maybe jump into some races overseas next year. I do enjoy it and it’s a huge honour to have the national jersey.”
In the junior men’s race, a small but talented field fought out a close battle to the last 250m with mountain biker Jacob Turner out sprinting his rivals for victory.
The return of a National Championships has provided a positive boost for the growing cyclocross community.
“The success of the event has undoubtedly created a platform for the continued growth of cyclocross in New Zealand for both high performance riders to represent New Zealand on the world stage and for juniors who will now have a pathway to continue in the sport,” said Hurst, on behalf of the event organising team.
Women, Elite: Kate McIlroy 49:07, 1; Kim Hurst 51:06, 2; Hannah Miller 55:53, 3. U23: Imi Balance 59:05, 1. U19: Caitlin Titheridge 59:38, 1; Jessalie Green 52:56, 2. U17: Annabel Bligh 53:07, 1.
Sport: Amelie Mackay 55:31, 1. Masters 1: Mary-Ann Moller 55:39, 1; Katherine Symons 58:22, 2; Angela Pratt 59:52, 3. Masters 2: Kim Johnston 59:56, 1; Melanie Parsons 1:00:38, 2. Masters 3: Tracy Clark 56:43, 1; Yvonne Boland 1:00:36, 2; Karen Hunn, 3.
Men, Elite: Brendon Sharratt 1:01:10, 1; Nick Miller 1:01:22, 2; Ollie Jones 1:03:31, 3. U23: Campbell Pithie 1:02:55, 1; Cameron Jones 1:04:28, 2; Sam Medlicott, 3. U19: Jacob Turner 39:30, 1; Boston Bright 39:33, 2; Jack Sheridan 39:33, 3. U17: Maui Morrison 41:18, 1; Matthew Fairbrother 42:31, 2; Daniel Lovegrove 43:09, 3. U15: Cohan Glintmeyer 47:20, 1.
Sport: Tom Filmer 37:44, 1; Logan Horn 40:37, 2; Jordan Phipps 44:01, 3.
Masters 1: Vaughan Watson 39:03, 1; Peter Hatton, 39:11, 2; Topher Hurley 39:13, 3. Masters 2: Angus Petrie 41:37, 1; Hamish Fraser 42:53, 2; Devan Simmonds 42:59, 3. Masters 3: Rob Kilvington 39:18, 1; Neil Sutherland 41:06, 2; Greg Mason 41:24, 3. Masters 4: Andy Timmings 44:27, 1; Ross Cheesman 47:23, 2; Graham Collis 50:29, 3.