A challenging course and quality field made life hard for the Southlanders lining up in the Calder Stewart Elite Road Nationals in Christchurch over the weekend.
Southland's three starters in the Elite and Under-23 Men's road race on Sunday, Tom Vessey, Matt Zenovich and Tom Scully, pictured left, all failed to complete the 182 kilometres. Defending champion and Cycling Southland member James Williamson, debuting for his new Node4-Subaru team, also DNFed. But they were in good company with just 20 of the original 74 starters getting to the finish line.
Hometown favourite Hayden Roulston rode down professional teammate George Bennett in the final 3kms to claim his third victory in the championships.
Roulston overcame a 48 second deficit on the final of the 12 laps in the 180km elite men’s race before the Radioshack Nissan Trek pair rode together to the finish. Roulston claimed the win to add to his titles won in 2006 and 2011.
Aucklander James Oram, who had ridden bravely with Roulston in the latter stages, held on to be third overall and claim the under-23 honours.
It did not prove the fairytale finish for the country’s most illustrious cyclist Julian Dean, who sprinted home the chase bunch to take the final place on the podium in his last race as a professional.
On Saturday twenty-year-old Tauranga cyclist Courtney Lowe caused an upset in winning the women's race bouncing back from surgery to claim her first national title.
In her first race since surgery in August last year, Lowe out-sprinted a select group of proven professionals to claim the victory in a desperate sprint from Auckland teenager Georgia Williams (Kiwi Velo) and Canterbury’s Jo Kiesanowski (Team Tibco).
It too proved to be a race of survival with just eight starters making it to the final lap of the 120 kilometre race.
On Friday Zenovich and Gabby Vermunt turned in the best results for the weekend in the Under 23 Men's and Women's Time Trial, respectively.
Zeno cut out his 40 kilomtres in 53 minutes 33 seconds for seventh, a little over four minutes outside the time set by champion Michael Vink while Gabby claimed fifth overall with 36:56, within a minuyte and a half of a medal. Olympian Linda Villumsen lived up to her favourites tag to take another national title.
For full results visit elitenationals.co.nz.