For the first time, a New Zealand World Champion lines up for the Big Save Elite Road National Championships in Napier in the New Year.
Linda Villumsen became the first New Zealander to win a UCI World Championship on the road when she won the time trial world title in USA in September.
The Christchurch-based rider has confirmed she will defend her national road championship honours won in Christchurch early this year.
More than 100 elite riders will contest the championships which forms part of a Summer Cycling Carnival in Hawkes Bay led by the national time trial and road titles on January 8-10.
The event ambassador, Julian Dean believes it is one of the strongest and most motivated fields for a national championship in recent years.
"I’ve been talking to the World Tour riders and also a number of the European-based Continental professionals and they are excited to perform well in Hawkes Bay," said Dean, who rode in 19 Grand Tours in his illustrious career.
"To win this race and be able to wear the New Zealand jersey in races in Europe is much sought-after and something that the riders and their teams value greatly. So they are well motivated to want to win this," said Dean who remembers the kudos he received wearing the national jersey in the Tour de France.
"To be the national champion is a unique point of difference in the peloton and you receive significantly more profile plus the New Zealand jersey is so special."
"We’ve got five World Tour riders and there’s fantastic depth of talent in the men, and the women’s field is definitely deeper that it has been in recent times which is exciting."
Villumsen heads an excellent women’s field that includes 2010 and 2014 champion Rushlee Buchanan, the 2013 winner Courtney Lowe, both Waikato-BOP, and double Olympian Joanne Kiesanowski (Canterbury), who won the national honours in Hawkes Bay in 2003.
The women’s field includes double time trial champion Jaime Nielsen, Southland’s Laura Thompson, a triple Paralympics medallist as a co-pilot; US-based professional Emily Collins (Auckland); track star Georgia Williams (Auckland); triathletes Kate McIlroy (Otago) and Sophie Corbridge (Waikato BOP) and a number of talented young guns.
The men’s field includes five UCI World Tour professionals in Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal), Sam Bewley (OricaGreenEdge), Jesse Sergent (AG2R La Mondiale), George Bennett (Lotto NL Jumbo) and Patrick Bevin (Cannondale Pro Cycling).
Joseph Cooper (Wellington) will defend his men’s crown with strong support from the Avanti IsoWhey Sports team, along with leading elite Cycling New Zealand track riders Cameron Karwowski (Southland) and Alex Frame (Canterbury), UK-based Madison Genesis pros Tom Scully (Southland) and Mike Northey (Auckland) and super-talented young riders James Oram and Dion Smith (both Auckland) who have their first appearance in the elite grade and with the new European-based team ONE Pro Cycling.
Europe-based pro Hamish Schreurs (Canterbury) will defend his under-23 crown in a field that includes 2014 national champion Hayden McCormick (Waikato BOP) and world champion team pursuit track riders Dylan Kennett and Regan Gough, who will have local support alongside his teammate and cousin Fraser Gough.
The road race course comprises a long loop around the well-known Puketapu circuit before returning for a number of laps over an exciting inner city course that takes in the testing Napier Hill and finishes on Marine Parade.
The Big Save Elite Road National Championships begin with the time trials at Church Road on 8 January, with the elite women’s road race over 117kms including 4.5 loops of the inner city course on Saturday 9 January, and the elite and under-23 men’s race on Sunday over 180kms with 7.5 laps in the Napier CBD.
To find out more go to www.summercyclingcarnival..co.nz