She hobbled on to the podium as if she was still wearing cleats on her bike shoes but Kerri-anne Page was treading egg shells in a pair of joggers as lactic acid held her to ransom after the 114km elite cycling road race in Napier.
Page, of Hastings, was simply spent as she slipped on two jerseys — the polka-dotted queen of the mountain first up and then the forest green sprint queen one over it at the end of the BDO-sponsored NZ and U23 Elite Road Cycling Championship along Marine Parade on Saturday.
Wearey arms raised twice to the appreciation of an army of fans, the 29-year-old personal trainer at City Fitness Hastings, who won the polka dot jersey here last year as well, had to be helped off the podium and eventually through a side entrance behind the podium into the Napier Conference Centre hall.
"Yeah, I had a good day — get the breaks, get on the podium any way possible for me to get the jersey and if I got overall then sweet but just getting on the podium is a pretty amazing thing," Page said, soon after medics had helped her into a recovery position with her legs up on a chair and lying flat as support crew member/husband Josh Page assured everyone she just needed a dose or two of sugar to find her feet again.
"That's how I race. I leave nothing in myself so I go as hard as I can," the Hawke's Bay Ramblers Cycling Club member explained after sitting up on the floor. It was the first time she had won two jerseys at an event.
"Obviously, winning the overall thing would have been quite amazing but just to win one [jersey] would have been great and to win both is pretty awesome."
That overall honour belongs to Georgia Williams, 24, of Auckland, who also clinched the time trial the day before.
She clocked 3h 37m 05s in the road race, stamping her supremacy with a yawning 4m 41s lead over Sharlotte Lucas, of Hokitika (Velo Project)
Under-23 champion Grace Anderson (Team Illuminate), 20, also of Auckland, pipped Kirsty McCallum, of Hastings, but the latter got on the podium for bronze because the U23 race is run separately from the open one.
Page didn't know where she finished overall and, frankly, didn't care. Just to finish the race itself was an accomplishment as far as she was concerned.
The Tank Guy/Bike Box Rental rider made the initial break with U23 contender Ione Johnson, of Wellington, and Natalie Kerwin, of Whanganui (but a former Rambler who lived and received coaching from retired pro Jeremy Vennell), about 7km into the race before Kerwin, who turns 27 on January 15, dropped off after 40 minutes as the peloton, with Willliams, and defending champion Rushlee Buchanan, of Waikato, swallowed her up.
Having returned from the 55km rural circuit from the backdrop of Taradale to Pandora Rd, the pair entered the first of five city circuit laps but Page went solo, dropping Johnson off on Hospital Hill.
But it was a false dawn as the peloton started disintegrating after the first lap. Williams eclipsed Johnson in the second Hospital Hill climb and established a 30-second lead to cross the lap finish line for the second time.
That gap widened incrementally over the next three laps as Williams powered to 4:41m victory.
"If I could have held her out I would have but she's the next level up and amazing so even that I held her off for two laps is good and I'm stoked," said Page, who returned to support her husband yesterday.
It was also hard to wipe the smile off McCallum's face.
"It's my first medal [at the elite nationals]. I just couldn't believe it," said the 25-year-old sports co-ordinator at Napier Boys' High School, who lives in Hastings.
The Rambler, who has been a club administrator a good part of her life, was excited about the prospect of racing with Velo Project domestically before embarking on her maiden overseas race, the year-long national road series in Australia this year.
When she got to the starting line in the morning she was of the mindset that anything was possible.
"It didn't pan out that way but it's still pretty awesome and I'm stoked."
The podium placing has injected a sense of self-belief and worth into McCallum, who fancies a chance of gold at the nationals.
A late bloomer, who started competitive cycling at 21, she caught the bug as someone who flirted with running.
"My mum and dad did it [cycling]. They bought me a bike and I just didn't want it," she said of Ramblers riders Carol and Dave McCallum, who were just as delirious as her.
"They were yelling and screaming the whole time and everyone from Hawke's Bay was running around with them yelling and screaming, too, so that was pretty cool.
"Every time I heard my name it made me feel a little bit more special that you were going with everyone else as well."
McCallum, in her third year of elite nationals, couldn't recall who was the last female Rambler to win a senior road race medal.
She lauded her coach, William Green, of Hawke's Bay, who helped with nutrition and mental preparation.
"He believed in me and that was good enough," she said. "All I had to do was ride so I'm glad I could prove to him that I had done the hard work and all the work he'd done."
Green had said: "I told you so. I knew you could do it."