Michael Vink had the perfect send off for his overseas campaign with BikeNZ men's track endurance squad when he rode away from the field to win Le Race in two hours and thirty one minutes today.
Vink leaves for Belgium on Tuesday and showed he is in good form sitting a fast pace up the early climb through the Christchurch suburb of Cashmere and then dominated the final 40 kilometres of racing dropping breakaway companion James Early to win the tough 100 kilometre event for the second time.
After 60 kilometres of racing Vink approached the bottom of the Hilltop climb with 14 other riders after the leading two bunches had combined through Little River and Cooptown. The 2010 Le Race winner then went to work, setting a tough pace up the six kilometre climb that only Early could match.
“At the bottom of the Hill Top climb things split up,” Vink said. “I rode quite hard and James and I got away and then I attacked over the top. I was going for the KOM points but that’s also the place I normally feel the best as I know there’s a big downhill to recover afterwards.”
Vink was pleased with the win but was quick to point out the racing he’s about to face in Europe will be very different. He has the under 23 Tour of Flanders in two weeks which features gruelling cobblestones and colder conditions.
“It’s a flat race with lots of cobbles and if certainly different to Le Race but good form is good form and I’m really happy I’m in good shape.”
Early was quick to praise Vink’s win, saying the racing was fast from the start as he was keen to see it split up early to put some of the favoured riders under pressure but once Vink applied the pressure in the last quarter of the race he just could not match his climbing speed.
“He was strong and when he went I just couldn’t stay with him, it was an impressive ride,” he said.
Defending champion Sam Horgan out sprinted national triathlon representative Tom Davison to claim third with16 year old Daniel Whitehouse finishing fifth, ahead of UK UCI Continental team Node4 riders Mike Northey and Daniel Barry.
Sharlotte Lucas (Benchmark Homes Cycling Team) continued her good recent form to win the women’s event in three hours and two minutes, over four minutes clear of Laura Fairweather from Southland.
Fairweather won gold on the track and smashed the world record in the tandem pursuit as a pilot for Phillipa Grey at the London Paralympics, saying the hills ‘got to her’ in the end after claiming the first Coffee Culture Queen of the Mountain at the top of Dyers Pass.
“When the pressure really went on in the second half I just couldn’t quite keep up with the little climbers but I did my best and I’m happy with second.”
Lucas recently won the opening round of the Benchmark Homes elite cycling series and was pleased to carry that form into today’s race saying it was the best win of her growing career.
“I felt really good on the first climb so went ahead there and then managed to stay away with Laura, and I just continued to climb really well,” she said. Lucas claimed the second Coffee Culture Queen of the Mountain climb and went on to build on her lead and was ‘really rapt’ to win her first Le Race title.
Hayley Mercer was third just over a minute after Fairweather, out sprinting May Gray.
There were riders from Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK with riders also coming from throughout New Zealand.