Commonwealth Games medallist Jaime Nielsen gave her upcoming track hopes a boost when she defended her time trial title at the Calder Stewart elite national road championships in Christchurch today.
Fresh off winning every stage of the Tour de Vineyards, Nielsen powered home in strong nor-easterly winds to claim the women’s 25km time trial ahead of Commonwealth Games gold medallist Linda Villumsen.
Young Christchurch rider Michael Vink, a three-time winner of the national under-23 honours, won his first elite men’s time trial title over 40kms while US-based professional James Oram from Auckland won the under-23 crown.
Riders faced tough windy conditions on the open out-and-back course in Lincoln, south of the city, to kick-start the road championships.
Nielsen, who is preparing towards next month’s track world championships, put her renowned strength as a former rower to good effect, edging Villumsen to the turn by 11 seconds and powering back into the teeth of the wind to win in 35m03s.
Villumsen, still in the early stages of her off-season base training, was second 1m11s behind with Nielsen’s track teammate Lauren Ellis (Mid South Canterbury) third a further 39 seconds back.
“It’s great to win and I think I’ve got some good benefits from the current block of road training and racing,” Nielsen said. “I had a good week at the Tour de Vineyards and it has set me up well today.
“I just built in to things a bit like my old rowing days, and really had to work hard into that wind.
Nielsen said while she is thrilled to defend her title, she is not reading too much into the results.
“Riders are all in different phases of training right now and Linda is looking to the road later in the year while I am focussed on preparing for next month’s track world championships.
“The road block has been really good and now I can go back to the track and fine tune towards the national championships at the end of the month.”
Some thought Vink (Breads of Europe-All About Plumbing) may have pushed too hard with the advantage of the wind when he turned in the men’s time trial in 21:09 with 20 seconds advantage over 2013 winner Joseph Cooper (Avanti Racing).
But Vink had gained an insight into the winds when he chose to cycle out to the course today, and he was solid, giving up just seven seconds of his advantage to Cooper to win in 48m24s.
Cooper was second in 49:37 with his Avanti Racing teammate Patrick Bevin, a favourite for Sunday’s road race, third in 49:56.
“I was fastest overall in the year I won the under-23 title so it is great to win the elite overall title, and to be honest, I am a little surprised given where I thought my form was at,” Vink said.
“While I train on this course a bit, today’s wind is not something I’ve experienced before. I decided to ride out here today and that gave me an insight into the wind and I rode accordingly.
“It’s a good start for the Breads of Europe-All About Plumbing team and let’s see if we can follow that up with a good team performance on Sunday.”
Aucklander Oram trailled Lotto-Soudal professional Hayden McCormick (Te Awamutu) by three seconds at the turn, but the Bissell Development pro, to be known as Axeon Racing this year, was the only under-23 rider under the 30 minute barrier on the return leg.
He won in 51s17s, which was 46 seconds ahead of his teammate Dylan Kennett (Waimate) with defending champion Fraser Gough (Avanti Racing, Hawke's Bay) third a further 12 seconds back.
Tomorrow is the women’s road race over 120.5kms comprising eight laps with six climbs of the infamous Dyers Pass. The elite and under-23 men’s race on Sunday is 12 laps in total for 183.7kms, starting with the usual full lap on the flat before 10 circuits up the Dyers Pass climb and a final flat lap to the finish.
Results, time trial:
Elite men, 40km: Michael Vink (Canterbury, Breads of Europe-All About Plumbing) 49:24, 1; Joseph Cooper (Wellington, Avanti Racing) 49:37, 2; Parick Bevin (Taupo, Avanti Racing) 49:56, 3.
Elite Women, 25km: Jaime Nielsen (Waikato BOP) 35:03, 1; Linda Villumsen (Canterbury, UnitedHealthcare) 36:14, 2; Lauren Ellis (Mid South Canterbury) 36:53, 3.
Under-23 Men, 40km: James Oram (Auckland, Axeon Racing) 51:17, 1; Dylan Kennett (Mid South Canterbury, Breads of Europe-All About Plumbing) 52:03, 2; Fraser Gough (Hawkes Bay, Avanti Racing) 52:15, 3.