Hayden Roulston claimed his fourth national road cycling championship victory today, saying after edging the sprint finish over fellow New Zealand representative Jack Bauer that it was his toughest and most pleasing yet.
The win, after a long-range battle with Bauer, who also races on the World Tour Pro circuit, and 23-year-old triathlete Tom Davison, means he is now equal with Jack Swart and only one title behind Aucklander Gordon McCauley for the most victories in the 76-year history of the championship.
The trio hit the front shortly after the midway point of the 12-lap, 184km race on a wind-swept day on the arduous Cashmere Hills circuit in Christchurch.
"It feels the best of the four wins to be honest,'' said Roulston, who became the first national winner for his re-named Trek Factory Team. "It is very difficult to win this race once, let alone winning it again and again.
"I think this year was the hardest. I raced this year different to how I usually race. This time I decided to go from the start and make those guys chase me. I hit 306 watts today - that's a massive, massive day for four and a half hours.''
After an early break Roulston worked hard to move to the chase bunch, forcing Bauer to make a solo charge from the third pack. Roulston's Trek Factory teammate Jesse Sergent then worked hard to drive through to the front of the field, and gradually the battle of attrition told.
With five laps remaining it was down to Roulston, Bauer and Davison, who did more than his share of tempo work at the front of the pack.
The trio were still together as they rounded the corner with 400m remaining. As Roulston made his move, Bauer looked to jump across to repeat his sprint finish to the 2010 title, but just failed.
"I am exhausted,'' Bauer said. "Anything but the win here is disappointing especially after a hard, hard day. I just had nothing in the kick. I completely cramped up when he [Roulston] went.''
There was plenty of joy for the young Christchurch rider, Davison, who not only clung with the two professionals for virtually the entire journey, but even fought back after being dropped on the penultimate climb up Dyers Pass Road.
``Just coming around that last corner with those two guys was a dream come true. I watched them in the Tour de France a couple of years ago over there and to be riding alongside them today was just awesome,'' Davison said.
The national under-23 honours went to Te Awamutu professional Hayden McCormick, who out-sprinted defending champion James Oram and fellow New Zealand junior representative Dion Smith.
Elite men, 185km: Hayden Roulston (Trek Factory Team, Christchurch) 4:40.39, 1; Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp, Takaka) same time, 2; Tom Davison (Scotty Browns Vision Systems, Christchurch) at 1sec, 3; Jason Christie (Breads of Europe-All About Plumbing, Tinwald) at 2min 28sec, 4; James Williamson (L&M Ricoh, Alexandra) at 2:39, 5.
Under-23: Hayden McCormick (Lotto Belisol, Te Awamutu) 4:47.31, 1; Dion Smith (Auckland) same time, 2; James Oram (Auckland) same time, 3.