Tanya Sharp on her way to victory in round 3 of the Team Championship, photo Ed Wright / RoadCycling.co.nz

Tanya Sharp produced arguably the gutsiest performance of the Team Championship series so far across all grades when she took the win in the Open Women’s race in round 3 of the Grassroots Trust Team Championship presented by Dynamo Events. Sharp took a dominant victory in Ohinewai ahead of Stella Nightingale and Olivia King.

Racing in the third round of the Grassroots Trust Team Championship took place under grey skies and blustery conditions up in Ohinewai just north of Huntly. Our feature race of the morning was the open women’s race which would take the field on a 78.9km lumpy course. Heading into the race the series was being led by Connie O’Brien from Sammi Ogle, with the two trading wins in the opening two rounds of the series. The series had also been dominated by Cycling New Zealand’s junior squad with the three squads present in the series proving dominant over the first two rounds.

It didn’t take long for an early breakaway to establish itself at the front of the race, with a couple of riders eager to test the legs early. A move of two riders shot off the front of the race with Team GMC / Back Office Systems represented by what looked like Mireielle Sitters and Tanya Sharp of Team St Marks Breast Centre. The rolling course saw the move of two become one though on the first of the rises that kicked up. Sharp pressed on and maintained a gap of around 20 seconds to the peloton behind her. That gap grew to 32 seconds with 10km covered and proceeded to grow from there.

Although a chase effort from a small handful of riders did attempt to establish, with 18km covered the gap had proceeded to grow still further to over a minute. Behind Tanya Sharp the bunch were beginning to feel the bite of the course that was certainly proving to be undulating in the early sections of the race. The peloton appeared to have fractured but only slightly, with a good number of riders still present in the pack. As the course approached the 20km point a couple of more serious challenges arrived for the riders. But from there the riders were able to enjoy a sweeping downhill, and Sharp certainly took full advantage of it. Heading onto Tahuna Road after 24km with a progressively more commanding advantage; that had the peloton completely out of site.

The blustery conditions did little to deter the St Marks rider though who kept pressing on and building her advantage to 1.24mins with 29km of the race covered. The course could well be said to have suited Sharp’s skills, with the race leader coming to the race with a healthy background in Ironman and Half Ironman distance triathlon. Sharp’s triathlon endeavours had seen her take on the Ironman World Championship course in Kona, Hawaii in her past, and it was clear that the peloton were not going to have it easy if they were to catch Sharp, with the non-drafting rules surrounding Ironman distance triathlon meaning Sharp was well accustomed to big solo efforts.

As the route took on the next loop Sharp was able to enjoy a little bit more of a tailwind and push her speed up to over 50kph heading to Taniwha Road with 48km tackled. With 25km remaining Sharp was showing no let up in pace or determination to keep on going, despite the fact that if anything the wind factor had picked up. The kilometres ticked away and Sharp’s performance was looking more and more like a winning one; and it was nothing short of deserved with her attack going virtually from the drop of the flag. But would the distance finally take its toll or would the bunch manage to make use of their strength in numbers and chase her back?

Progressively though the answer came, with Sharp continuing to press on. The kilometres were hurting the legs, but it looked at this stage that the St Marks rider would maintain enough speed to take the win wth the peloton nowhere to be seen. 10km from the finish Sharp was staring at what would be one of the star performances of the series so far. Turning on to Waiterimu Road Sharp’s technique remained strong and efficient and with just 8km to go victory was all but certain. And as the finish line neared the victory was confirmed despite a late charge by Stella Nightingale of the Cycling New Zealand Junior Hub team. Nightingale succeeded in gapping the peloton and putting almost a minute into them, but Sharp proved elusive.

At the finish Tanya Sharp crossed the line a full 3.21mins ahead of Nightingale who claimed a comfortable second place ahead of CyclingNZ Junior White team member Olivia King who also managed to put distance between her and the chasers in the closing kilometres. The peloton was led home by Renee Young, with Cycling New Zealand riders filling 6 of the top 8 places; but this time the crucial top spot eluded them and not only did Sharp take the win, but with it the overall series lead.

Provisional results:
Pos. Rider Team Time

1

Tanya Sharp Team St Marks Breast Centre 2.30.04

2

Stella Nightingale Cycling New Zealand Junior Hub +3.21

3

Olivia King Cycling New Zealand Junior White +4.13

4

Renee Young Cycling New Zealand Junior Hub +4.42

5

Maddi Douglas Cycling New Zealand Junior White +4.43

6

Courtney King Cycling New Zealand Junior Black +4.44

7

Dayna Haythorne Rapha Cycle Club +4.45

8

Grace Kelly Cycling New Zealand Junior Hub +4.46

9

Robyn Marchant Team St Marks Breast Centre ST

10

Nicola Lewis Rapha Cycle Club +4.48

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