City hosting national cycling champs

Aiming high . . . Newly signed NZ Cycling Project and local Timaru rider James Wilson (right) will have his sights set on a big performance this weekend. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Many of the world’s top cyclists are set to descend upon Timaru streets this weekend as part of the 85th staging of Cycling New Zealand’s Elite Road National Championships.

It is the fourth time the South Canterbury Cycling Club has hosted the event, which will be held from today until Saturday.

It has been more than 25 years since the championships were last staged in the region, and it also coincides with the club’s recent centenary.

Leading the way will be Groupama-FDJ professional Laurence Pithie, fresh from his victory in the Great Ocean Race in Australia, where he was the first New Zealander to win a one-day WorldTour race.

The elite men’s field will include Pithie’s WorldTour team-mate Reuben Thompson and several other UCI ProTour team riders, including the Israel Premier-Tech pair of 2021 champion George Bennett and in-form Corbin Strong.

Methven local Logan Currie, who won both the under-23 time trial and road race titles last year, will also be competing.

There are a number of riders who will compete for European-based pro teams this year, headed by Commonwealth Games road champion Aaron Gate (Burgos BH) and his former Black Spoke team-mate, and threetime national champion, James Fouche (Euskatel-Euskadi).

Using their numbers to effect will be New Zealand’s only UCI professional team, the NZ Cycling Project.

Team riders Josh Burnett and James Gardner won the UCI Gravel & Tar race and the Criterium National Championships respectively, both in Manawatu ¯ last month.

The team will have 10 riders competing, including Timaru rider James Wilson, fresh off a second-place finish at the Criterium National Championships, and James Williamson, of Central Otago, who at 34 will be returning to lead the team after winning the national road championship 12 years ago in Christchurch.

There are five female riders on major professional teams competing, four of them with road race and time trial national titles in U23 categories: Ella Harris (Wahoo-Lifeplus), Henrietta Christie (Human Powered Health), Kim Cadzow (EF Education First), Mikayla Harvey (UAE Team ADQ) and Ella Wyllie (Liv AlUla Jayco).

The time trials will be held today in the Claremont rural district. The U19 females will be timed over a 14.8km course, the U19 men and U23 and elite women over 24km, and U23 and elite men over 37km.

The action moves to the road tomorrow around a testing 24.4km loop with a 200m ascent and decent each lap.

The U19 men race over 122.5km (5 laps) from 9am tomorrow.

The U23 women, and elite women will race over the same distance from 1.30pm.

Saturday starts with the U19 women over 77.5km (3 laps) from 8am and the U23 and elite men over 196km (8 laps) from 11am.