Cycling: Buchanan pedals towards fourth road title

Time trial winners, Hayden McCormick, Mens U23, Bevin Patrick, Mens Elite and Rustle Buchanan, Womens. Photo / Alphapix / John Cowpland
Time trial winners, Hayden McCormick, Mens U23, Bevin Patrick, Mens Elite and Rustle Buchanan, Womens. Photo / Alphapix / John Cowpland

Waikato's double Olympic cyclist Rushlee Buchanan will be chasing a slice of history at the New Zealand Road Cycling Championships in Napier this weekend.

Defending champion Buchanan will attempt to become the first woman to win the road race championship four times. She shares the honour of three national titles with Meshy Holt and Cath Cheatley.

The United Healthcare Team professional is among the healthy 59-strong fields for the time trials today and road race tomorrow, with the elite and under-23 men's road race on Sunday.

"If I get number four, that will be awesome obviously, but just to win the race is awesome in its own right. I want to win it as much as any other year."

With the retirement of Jo Kiesanowski and the unavailability of Linda Villumsen, Buchanan is the only former winner to compete this weekend.

She will be joined by her fellow Rio Olympic riders Jaime Nielsen, Georgia Williams and the national criterium winner Racquel Sheath.

Riders expected to contend include Hokitika's Sharlotte Lucas, a three-time Calder Stewart Series winner, the irrepressible Karen Fulton (Tasman) and Roxsalt rider Ruby Livingstone (Auckland).

There is a raft of young talent led by Manawatu's Michaela Drummond, a junior world track medallist, and national representatives Georgia Catterick (Blenheim), who will ride for UCI Continental Team Illuminate in the US this year, Auckland's Madeleine Park, who will race for the high profile Team TIBCO-SVB in the US, and track prospects Holly White and Nina Wollaston.

There is interest in former mountain runner and triathlete Kate McIlroy who has moved to road cycling, signing with the Specialized Women's Team in Australia.

Buchanan is well prepared, with some solid road training since the Rio Olympics, but this will be her first race in six months.

"Last season, all the track team were on basically the same training programme and we knew where each of us was at. But this year, we have all been doing our own thing, so none of us has been road racing, which will make it really interesting," said Buchanan.

The 28 year old is looking out for the bevy of young talent on show, buoyed by the addition of a separate under-23 division for the first time.

"There are a lot of young girls that have been racing a lot. They're really good and have got themselves some good contracts with pro teams this year. Hopefully this under-23 category encourages them to race hard for their own jersey and I hope that makes the racing on the day more aggressive and more tactical."

While Buchanan returns to track duties next week, the weekend signals the start of a stint on the road with her United Healthcare team competing for the first time in the Santos Tour Downunder and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

"The focus next week is back on the track as I attempt to make the team for the world championships in April. But after that, it is on the road.

"It is the perfect year post-Olympics to get your base miles in, with road racing ideal to get strong for that next cycle on the track. The only real way to achieve that is to be road racing overseas."

Until then, Buchanan has her sights on defending her joint titles in the time trial and road race in Napier.

The elite and under-23 men compete over 169km on Sunday, with 87km of the country loop and seven laps of the inner city course, with the finish on the Napier foreshore.

- NZ Herald

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