She finished sixth two years in a row in four years of trying so you could say Hawke's Bay professional cyclist Kirsty McCallum was due for a victory last weekend.
McCallum did triumph, with aplomb, when she clinched the 30th edition of the Harcourts Bev May Women's Tour in Morrinsville on Sunday.
The Hawke's Bay Ramblers Cycling Club member was left beaming among the more than 30 riders when the four-stage, two-day event finished with a bunch sprint.
"I definitely had everything lined up, which meant that I could execute the result that I had wanted," said the 26-year-old who is the sports co-ordinator at Napier Boys' High School.
McCallum eclipsed Courteney Lowe, of Tauranga Cycling Club, and Jenna Merrick, of Counties Manukau, who had to settle for runner-up and third, respectively.
The victor felt the challenging UCI (professional) five-race schedule in Australia early last month had put her not just in an ideal physical condition but also provided the mental fortitude to grind it out at the weekend.
"I learnt so much about myself as a bike racer and how I could transfer from racing to be competitive to racing to win," she said, after competing as a New Zealand representative at the Santos Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Herald Sun Tour.
The overall winner of the Calder Stewart Series in South Island last October, McCallum considered the Bev May Tour probably her biggest acquisition to date last weekend.
The tour began with the 42km Hangawera Rd circuit on Saturday morning with Georgia Perry, of Te Awamutu Sports Cycling, crossing the line first with Lowe second and Laura Jorgensen, of USA Cycling, also scrambling on to the podium.
McCallum had finished eighth, three seconds adrift of Perry overall.
But she made her move in the 85km second stage with a win although the margin between her and the nearest rivals was slim. McCallum scooped maximum points at all four queen of the mountain sprints to stamp her authority over the classification.
With no points on offer in the final-stage criterium, she registered 25 points for the classification. Lee Boon, of Cycling New Plymouth, was second (10 points) and Merrick was third on eight.
Only two points separated McCallum, Alicia Evans (Counties) and Pip Sutton (Hamilton) for the general classification honours.
Lowe registered closed the gap on McCallum to within four seconds the next morning with a bonus second collected on the line, after the 85km stage.
It came down to the 40-minute, three-lap criterium on 1.2km course outside Morrinsville Intermediate School where Lowe prevailed but McCallum clinched runner-up to pip the winner overall for the yellow jersey by three seconds. Katie Richards (Kapiti) was third.
Jorgensen claimed the sprint ace classification, beating Kerri-Anne Page, of Hasting, and Natalie van Coevorden.
For McCallum, under the tutelage of partner and racer William Green, it was a case of figuring out tactically how much to exert and how much to hold back.
She decided to keep the race in check on day one although she didn't anticipate slipping on the yellow jersey so early after the stage two win.
It was imperative she aggressively backed herself on any climb.
"The Tahuroa/Bell circuit was probably the most animated I've ever seen in a New Zealand women's race. After taking all four QOMs on the stage I was aiming to show them I wasn't at this tour to muck around," McCallum said, despite the nature of the course favoured the "bigger diesels" such as Sutton and Jorgeson who ground their way back in the final 10km.
"I am not a pure sprinter but I have a decent kick on me so I went all in for the sprint finish," she said after surging from the middle of the pack for a comfortable-margin win.
The QOM jersey was immensely satisfying, after she was runner-up last year, and that teed up her on the overall crown.
Green, who devised everything from tactical manoeuvres to nutritional maps, wasn't at Morrinsville but kept in touch with her with tips.
McCallum now heads back to Dunedin in the hope of defending her Calder Stewart series title while entering the domestic races, such as the Gentle Annie and club nationals.
Next month she jets off to Tasmania to focus on the Oceania Championship road race with her team, Velo Project Women's Cycling Team.
It's an exciting year for McCallum with races in Australia, Asia and Europe.
She is indebted to sponsors Peak Fitness and Health, Peak Massage as well as the "amazing" group of backers of Velo Project.