National elite men's road cycling champion James Williamson has hit the road after claiming his title in Christchurch on Sunday and will line up to race at Milford tomorrow.
Williamson, a Cycling Southland rider, won the elite men's title at the Road Cycling National Championships in Christchurch and will now contest the Distinction Hotels Mountain Classic, a 120km road race from Milford to Te Anau. Williamson actually finished second overall behind under-23 rider Michael Vink in Christchurch on Sunday but still claimed his title as first elite man home.
Jeremy Yates was the second elite man home in Christchurch and will also compete in the Milford Mountain Classic.
Williamson was looking forward to competing in a home race wearing the national champion's jersey and should be a force in tomorrow's event. He will, though, be keeping his eye on his competitors.
Chris Macic and Brett Tivers who, along with Yates, impressed during the 2011 PowerNet Tour of Southland for Share the Road, will also be on the start line and, among local cyclists aiming for top finishes, is Queenstown's Mark Williams and Southland's Matt Marshall and Tom Scully.
Sport Southland event manager Matt Sillars said it was great to have such a high quality field for the first event.
"That's brilliant for the first event and it is certainly set to make for an exciting race," he said. "The unique nature of the course – and that it starts with two tough climbs before flattening out a bit – really makes it a bit of an unknown."
The small women's field will include top New Zealand road cyclist Serena Sheridan, as well as young Central Otago cyclist Sophie Williamson.
The Eglinton Challenge – a 63km race from Knobs Flat to Te Anau – will also be held, starting after the bulk of the Milford Mountain Classic competitors have passed through Knobs Flat.
While both distance events have attracted quality fields, the event will also have a strong recreational feel and a high proportion of the more than 120 cyclists who have signed up have done so in the recreational category.
Sillars was pleased with the mix of abilities and was looking forward to getting the first race under way.
"It is a unique race, and will offer competitors a challenging ride in spectacular scenery. It's not often you get to cycle through a World Heritage area such as this, so we are really looking forward to it – and I'm sure the competitors are as well."
The race is supported by the Te Anau Project Group – a sub-committee of Destination Fiordland – Sport Southland, Fiordland College and Cycling Southland and is a fundraiser for the college.
The Milford Mountain Classic will start at 4.15pm tomorrow, leaving from the Milford township and finishing beside Lions Park, Te Anau.
It is expected that the first finishers will be in Te Anau shortly after 7pm.
Article courtesy of The Southland Times