New Zealand’s teenage world champions, Laurence Pithie and Ally Wollaston, grabbed their first elite cycling titles in winning the men’s and women’s Vantage Criterium National Championships in Christchurch.

Pithie from Christchurch and Wollaston from Cambridge both prevailed in exciting sprint finishes in downtown Christchurch, staged around a 1.1km course in the CBD.

Pithie was part of a six-strong break that featured his Canterbury teammate Andrew Bidwell, Marlborough’s Ethan Batt, Manawatu’s Joel Yates, Dutchman Antonie van Noppen and Vantage New Zealand track squad rider, Josh Scott (Christchurch). 

They pushed clear after a crash split the 41-strong pack, and while the chasing group worked hard to close to just seven seconds behind in the race over 40 minutes plus three laps, the catch never came.

Bidwell and Pithie had worked hard in the middle stages of the race but it was Batt who made the break in the home straight, only to be out-kicked by the young Christchurch rider to now adds a national champion’s jersey to his two rainbow jerseys won on the track.

“It was awesome to bring it home in front of a home crowd. I am really stoked with it. I have to thank Andrew Bidwell. If it wasn’t for him, I would not have had the energy at the end. He towed me around all day. It was great teamwork.”

Despite leading for four laps and setting the pace, Pithie was pleased with his tactics.

“I played it pretty cagey. I knew there were such strong guys like Ethan Batt and Joel Yates who have raced overseas and done all the crit circuits. I knew I had to follow and stay with them.

“Ethan went for it in the sprint and I managed to go with him and hold his wheel. It was the perfect leadout and I managed to kick around him in the end.

“It has certainly been a year to remember.”

Wollaston grabbed her first elite national title when she outsprinted the select bunch of four riders to claim the Vantage women’s title.

The junior track world champion had to work hard to bridge a gap after her Vantage New Zealand track teammate Bryony Botha and World Tour road professional Sharlotte Lucas turned up the wick on the sixth lap in their 35 minute race.

Wollaston and another Vantage New Zealand track teammate Michaela Drummond re-joined and the quartet rode away from the chasers.

Botha worked hard to push the pace but the four remained together until the final lap when they eased up for the final sprint, with the young sprinting legs of Wollaston prevailing over Drummond and Lucas, who was also third last year.

“I knew with a lap to go when it eased up that I was going to back myself in a sprint, so I am really happy I’ve done some training for this,” said Wollaston.

“It was really hard when Sharlotte and Bryony went off the front, I knew that if I didn’t bridge that gap they were going to get away. They were two of the strongest riders in the field so I knew I had to commit to chase them down which was so, so hard because I did it by myself.

“When the lap board came out with three to go I was unsure how I was feeling but with a lap to go when we were playing cat and mouse I knew I could back myself because it was coming from a low speed. I kicked and saw there was a gap and got excited.

“It is a surprise and awesome to come through with an elite title at 18 is exciting. It gives me some confidence for the world cups coming up, and I am doing a Madison so to know I have some speed is a big confidence boost.”

Ruby Spring, the national under-15 road champion from Saint Kentigern College in Auckland edged out Upper South Performance Hub rider, Amelia Sykes (Christchurch) and another Aucklander Bee Townsend in a sprint finish to win the under-17 girls’ title.

A select group of seven riders fought out the final lap of the under-17 boys, with honours going to Auckland’s Sacred Heart College rider Redmond Connolly in the sprint finish over national schools winner Jaxson Whyte (Timaru) and Lewis Bower (Auckland).

Earlier Waimate’s Peter Fish dominated the B Grade race, while local Koha Fitness bike instructor Andy Beale won the street race.

Ally Wollaston celebrates taking her first elite title, photo Kevin Clarke

Results:

Male, Street Race: Andy Beale (Christchurch) 23:37, 1; Mike Andrew (Perth) 24:34, 2; Peter O’Brien (Christchurch) 24:35, 3.

B Grade: Peter Fish (Waimate) 23:41, 1; Gary Macpherson (Christchurch) 23:57, 2; Nathon Sharratt (Christchurch) 23:58, 3.

Under-17: Redmond Connolly (Auckland) 25:39, 1; Jaxson Whyte (Timaru) same time 2; Lewis Bower (Auckland) 25:40, 3.

A Grade: Laurence Pithie (Christchurch) 47:53, 1; Ethan Batt (Marlborough) same time, 2; Antonie van Noppen (Netherlands) same time, 3.

Female, Under 17: Ruby Spring (Auckland) 25:09, 1; Amelia Sykes (Christchurch) same time, 2; Bee Townsend (Auckland) same time, 3.

A Grade: Ally Wollaston (Waikato BOP) 39:05, 1; Michaela Drummond (Manawatu) same time, 2; Sharlotte Lucas (Canterbury) same time, 3.

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