Touring professional and multiple world championship medal winner Linda Villumsen, Olympian Lauren Ellis and Sophie Williamson, who has signed with US based women’s pro team Vanderkitten, head the largest women’s field ever assembled for a Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series round on Saturday, the Parry Field Lawyers-Ocean Ridge Classic.
A strong women’s field of six teams is tackling the 99 kilometre route that starts just north of Culverden and ends at the exclusive Ocean Ridge sub division just south of Kaikoura. The route includes a number of challenging climbs and technical descents that will challenge riders and split up the fields.
Villumsen is getting some racing and training in prior to joining her new professional team Wiggle Honda in Europe in June, while Williamson, who had injury keeping her off her bike at the start of the year, registered impressive wins in the Graperide and Club Nationals last month as she builds up to heading overseas to join US based women’s pro team Vanderkitten.
The women’s field also includes first round winner Sharlotte Lucas (Benchmark Homes), who lies second in the series, just two points behind her teammate Ellis, former series winner Soul Star Racing’s Karen Fulton, national Under 19 representative Maddi Campbell (Altherm Window Systems) the experienced Tracy Clark (Pegasus Thule), who won the recent Masters 3 National Club Championships road race and Laura Fairweather, a gold medallist on the track as a pilot at the London Paralympics.
The elite men and masters fields have good numbers for their 123 kilometre races that start in Hanmer Springs with the first 10 kilometres neutralised until riders hit State Highway Seven just after the Ferry Crossing Bridge.
Joe Chapman (L&M Group Racing) has not won a round yet, but after finishing third and sixth in the first two rounds he leads the elite men’s series from Homestyle’s Tom Hubbard. The top of the points table is very close with round one’s winner Brad Evans (Fitlab), Tim Rush (Team Calder Stewart Road) and the second round’s winner Tom Davison (Scotty Browns-Vision Systems) all locked together only six points behind Hubbard.
Chapman is a proven climber, having won the Powernet Tour of Southland climber’s jersey, and having competed in the recent OCBC Cycle Singapore Professional Criterium with key riders from his L&M Group Racing team he will be looking for his first win in the series to consolidate his hold on the elite men’s leader’s jersey.
L&M Group Racing have a strong team to support Chapman that includes his brothers Anthony and Tim, Scott Thomas who finished the tough final climb in the last round just ahead of him, the well performed Nick Lovegrove and Sam Steele.
Hubbard leads the under 23 classification from Evans and has a young team of mainly under 23 riders to support him that includes Christchurch Boy’s High School student Adam Bull who was part of the winning team in last month’s Tour of New Zealand.
With Davison away overseas racing on the North America triathlon professional circuit the Scotty Browns-Vision Systems team will look to former Olympian Robin Reid to feature on Saturday. Reid had won the Forrest GrapeRide in record time the day before the previous round’s racing, an effort that took its toll on the Athens Olympian in the final stages of the race won by Davison.
Warmup Cycling’s Lee Johnstone has won the first two rounds of the series’ master’s races to take a dominating lead over Mark Spessot (Cycle World), Justin Sims (Armitage Williams), Brendon Mathews (Team Tineli Masters) and Blair Stuthridge (Team Thule Cycling) into Saturdays race.
While the masters category is split into two jersey classifications for thirty five to forty four years, and over forty five, there is serious kudos as to where riders finish in the final placings.
Johnstone currently wears the thirty five to forty four classification jersey with Sims lying second (third overall) while Spessot holds the over forty five jersey with Stuthridge his closest rival.
The Hanmer to Kaikoura course has an impressive list of previous winners that includes Brain Fowler in 2006, current professional Hayden Roulston, five time national road race champion Gordon McCauley who has won it twice and Josh Atkins, who is currently racing in Europe.