Olympian Rushlee Buchanan created history in Napier today, becoming the first woman to win the national elite road championship four times.

Buchanan out-kicked fellow Rio Olympic track rider Georgia Williams and triathlete-turned-cyclist Kate McIlroy in an exciting sprint finish along the Napier foreshore.

The United Healthcare rider successfully defended the title she won last year in Napier after wins in 2010 and 2014 to move one championship clear of three-time winners Cath Cheatley and Melissa Holt.

"I knew I wasn't the best climber out there and had to save my energy when I could and dig very, very deep when Kate and Georgia were putting the hammer down," Buchanan said. "I backed myself for the sprint finish. I knew I had the better jump and that played into my hands.


"It has not sunk in yet but to win the 2917 national championship is awesome. Number four is pretty amazing to put myself in the history books. For me I just want to represent the jersey well on the international stage and do the New Zealand proud the whole year."

McIlroy, who will move to the Specialized Women's professional cycling team in Australia this year, was pleased with her first serious efforts in the sport, after an injury-plagued final year in triathlon for the London Olympian.

"I am new to road cycling and hope to learn from my experiences this year and see how it goes. I am now working fulltime and fitting cycling around a job. I still love racing and until I lose that competitive spirit I will keep going."

Tomorrow is the men's road race over 169km with an initial 87km circuit in the hills beyond Taradale before returning for seven laps of an inner city circuit including the climb of Napier Hill and a final 13km flat lap to the finish on the Napier Foreshore.