Cycling: Roulston's strength gives him the edge

Hometown favourite Hayden Roulston rode down professional teammate George Bennett in the final 3km to claim his third victory in the Calder Stewart national road cycling championships in Christchurch yesterday.

Roulston overcame a 48s deficit on the final of the 12 laps in the 180km elite men's race before the Radioshack Nissan Trek pair rode together to the finish. Roulston claimed the win to add to his titles won in 2006 and 2011.

Outstanding Auckland prospect James Oram, who had ridden bravely with Roulston in the latter stages, held on to be third overall and claim the under-23 honours.

It did not prove the fairytale finish for the country's most illustrious cyclist Julian Dean, who sprinted home the chase bunch to take the final place on the podium in his last race as a professional.

"I didn't know what to expect coming into it. I didn't feel like I was in super form and I struggled in the beginning," Dean said. "Those young, small guys were really putting it to me and I struggled in the climbs but today's race almost paralleled my career - a lot of fighting, coming back to the front, getting dropped and coming back.

I was happy with today.

"Taking the decision to retire here really feels like the right thing, being able to share it with my family and a lot of other people, that was all anyone could ask for today."

Bennett (Nelson), who finished third in the Tour de Vineyards, bridged up to the late break by Oram and Roman van Uden (Auckland) on the penultimate lap, before breaking clear on the final climb up Dyers Pass. He stretched his lead to 48s but could not hold off the strength of Roulston and Oram on the final flat 21km to the finish.

"To be honest I thought I had it but it was too long to the line from the hill," Bennett said. "They have changed the race course which makes it exceptionally hard for a bloke like me to win.

"I had everyone on the hill but then 21km solo when you are a little bloke like me and on a windy day it was too far but it is a really good result and I felt super good. If I was going to be beaten by anyone then it was good to be Roly and it was a special moment to cross the line with him."

It proved a superb effort from Roulston who said he was not confident of his chances late in the race.

"The weather definitely drained a lot of energy from the riders today. The big break up the road early put a lot of pressure on the riders mentally," Roulston said.

"I was prepared to let George win the race and I was only working with James Oram to help him win the under-23. He's a great kid, great potential for the future but I just started to come good on the last 5km and decided I had the gas."

He also praised Dean.

"Julian came here and wanted a good race so he's gone out on a high and that's awesome. The crowd was amazing, pretty mind-blowing to see so many people up on the hill."

An early break from a group of a dozen riders pushed to a five-minute buffer before they were reeled in and Van Uden and Oram edged to a 30s advantage over Roulston who in turn had pushed clear from the main chase group that included Dean, Olympic medallist Jesse Sergent and defending overall winner Michael Vink.

While Van Uden faded, Oram pushed on with Roulston before Bennett and Michael Torkler joined the leaders. Bennett showed his prowess on the climb but the change to a final lap on the flat played into the hands of the powerful Roulston.

The race began on an emotional moment with Dean given the honour of leading off the peloton with his two young sons Tanner and Val joining him in his final race. Dean heads to Europe tomorrow to begin his new career as team management with the World Tour team Orica GreenEdge.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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