Some of New Zealand’s most promising teenage cyclists join former Olympians, world champion Masters and Para Cyclists at the Vantage Age Group Road National Championships in Timaru this weekend.

The championships, starting on Friday, have attracted around 530 riders representing 37 clubs from Cycling Southland to Marsden Wheelers in Northland.

Based in the country town of Pleasant Point 20kms inland from Timaru, the event includes a time trial on Friday followed by two days of road races, around a 21km loop course. It incorporates racing from under-15 years to the 80 years plus category.

Best represented is the powerhouse Counties-Manukau club with 61 riders, although the Canterbury region is well supported, with the three Christchurch clubs of Canterbury Time Trial, Canterbury Track and Pegasus providing 104 riders. There are 51 riders competing from the host South Canterbury club, and at the other end of the spectrum is Leeston club, a settlement of 1800 people south of Christchurch, with 15 competitors.

Many of the coutnry’s brightest young cyclists will be competing, with a majority coming through the Subway Performance Hub pathway. They include almost all of the New Zealand team preparing for the Junior World Track Championships in Germany, led by the outstanding Waikato rider Ally Wollaston, who won four national titles at the Vantage Elite & U19 Track Championships.  Also competing are most of the junior team for the upcoming Oceania Track Championships.

The young guns won’t have it all their own way with Bruce Stanton and Barry Gardiner from Canterbury competing in the men’s 80 years plus category, while the women’s 65-70 years division includes Canterbury’s outstanding Sharon Prutton, a world road champion, world Xterra age winner, Oceania mountain bike champion and five times veteran champ in the Coast to Coast.

A number of highly credentialed riders will be competing including Olympians Lauren Ellis from the nearby Tinwald club and multi-talented Kate McIlroy from Port Nicholson Poneke. The women’s senior field also includes Christchurch-based Jojo Bauer, sister of World Tour professional Jack Bauer, who has competed strongly in the last two Vantage Elite & U23 Road National Championships.

The senior men’s field includes former continental pro rider Logan Griffin (Te Awamutu), who won the tough Gentle Annie race recently, and Pegasus rider Paul Odlin, the former national and Oceania time trial champion.

There are a number of outstanding Masters riders on show including Waikato’s Jim McMurray (Forestland Wheelers), a multi world age champion and one-hour record holder; former Commonwealth Games rep Russell Ownsworth (Canterbury Track), national representative Tony Songhurst (Dynamo) and two-time Coast to Coast winner, Simon Yarrell (Pegasus).

The event also comprises the New Zealand Para Cycling Road Championships, with a number of outstanding performers including Northland’s Emma Foy, who recent won a bronze medal at the UCI World Track Championships.

The time trials, over either 15km or 24km, will be staged on Friday. There are further time trials for Para-cyclists on Saturday ahead of road races for under-15 (42km), under-17 girls (63km), Masters women and Masters 3 to 10 men (63 to 84km).

Sunday’s racing includes Masters 1-2 men over 105km, Under 19, under-23 and senior women over 84km and under 19, under-23 and senior men over 105km.

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