Sprint finishes decided both women’s honours in the UCI Oceania road cycling championships near Queenstown today.
Australians prevailed in both the junior and elite women’s titles raced in ideal conditions around a challenging circuit near Arrowtown.
Canberra mountain biker Gracie Elvin prevailed in the sprint finish from her Australian Institute teammate and GreenEdge professional Shara Gillow with fellow UCI professional Rachel Naylan third to complete the Australian clean sweep.
The best of the kiwis was teenager Georgia Williams (Auckland) who enjoyed an outstanding introduction to the elite ranks to finish fifth just behind the leading four who sprinted across the line at the end of the 102km race. She was fourth in Friday’s time trial.
Williams proved she is an exciting prospect for the future after finishing sixth in the time trial at the world championships last year before a serious injury after a crash while well positioned in the road race in Copenhagen.
Earlier Queensland’s Emily Roper outsprinted New Zealand’s Sophie Williamson and South Australia’s Jessica Mundy to claim the iunder-19 honours.
Southland’s Gabrielle Vermunt took up the challenge on the first of four 25km laps, taking in the major climb up McIntyre’s Hill near Arrowtown, as she opened up a 1 minute 30 second lead. Australian Bridie O’Donnell, the Fasa Bortolo professional based in Italy, took up the chase, catching Vermunt before riding solo in a break for 30kms.
The peloton brought things back with a bunch of 11 riders together at the start of the final lap. There were multiple attacks on the final climb up McIntyre’s Hill with Elvin given the perfect lead-out by teammate Gillow in the sprint to claim the honours 2:12.39.
“Queenstown put on a beautiful day for us and it’s very picturesque around here,” said Elvin. “The race was pretty hard. There were some tough hills for us. There were a couple of times they turned into walls.
“There were a lot of attacks we had to cover but everyone was playing cat and mouse a bit today. We tried to keep the bunch moving and keep in control and keep everyone interested. There were a couple of times the group sat up but we had to keep driving to bring the break back.
“I haven’t been able to do many bunch sprints in the last few months so I was a bit nervous coming into that. My teammate Shara (Gillow) set it up and I was able to position myself well and it worked out.”
Elvin will head to Europe with the Jayco AIS team where they will be based in Belgium as a lead-up before selection for the London Olympics and world championships.
The under-19 race over three laps of the same course gradually whittled down to a select group of five to contest the final lap.
Williamson, from nearby Alexandra, was the sole kiwi and got somewhat worked over by the four Australians with Roper able to edge her in the sprint finish, winning in 2:19.39.
“It was pretty tough. It broke up a bit which was good so it didn’t come into a big bunch sprint,” said Roper.
“We worked on her (Williamson) a bit as three of us Aussies ride together regularly.”
It proved a good weekend for Roper who finished second in the time trial yesterday.
“It’s been pretty good and I haven’t competed in a time trial before. This is a selection race for worlds so hopefully I’ve done enough.”
Tomorrow features with men’s road races with the under-19 race over four laps (102km) from 9.30am and the elite and under-23 over six laps (153kms) from 1pm.
Oceania road cycling championships, under-19 women, 76.5km: Emily Roper (Queensland, AUS) 2:12.39, 1; Sophie Williamson (NZL) same time, 2; Jessica Mundy (South Australia, AUS) same time, 3.
Elite women, 102km: Gracie Elivn (Jayco AIS, AUS) 3:06.45, 1; Shara Gillow (GreenEdge AIS, AUS) same time, 2; Rachel Neylan (Abus Nutrixxion, AUS) same time, 3; Myfanwy Galloway (Dream Team, AUS) same time, 4; Georgia Williams (NZL) at 2 seconds, 5