The 21-year-old won the sprint triathlon to beat her Under-23 and elite women's rivals, Kim Kadzu in second, and Samara Maxwell in third.
Ella Wylie (Liv Ala Jayco) won a triple sprint in the women's 122.5km road race on Friday at the New Zealand National Championships, claiming victory over her under-23 and elite competitors in the combined category event.
Elite time trial race winner Kim Kadzo (EF Education-Cannondale) finished second overall while stalwart mountain biker Samara Maxwell (Dekathlon Ford) crossed the line third on the Timaru track. Triathlete Bria Roderick was the second under-23 runner to cross the finish line in ninth place overall, while Moirin Green (Blackmagic p/b Tinelli) was third in the category.
“It was a race of attrition and I stayed patient and attentive all day,” said Willie, who also won the under-23 time trial. “I held off until the last lap to give myself full control, to tire out the last people in the race. The last four kilometres.
This is the second year in a row that a rider who also qualifies for the under-23 title has won the general classification, and is another indication of the strength of the influx of talent emerging from New Zealand. In 2023, Allie Wollaston won in both categories. However, after a long stint racing in Australia in the Women's World Tour and track events, Wollaston wasn't there to defend herself.
The 2024 race, featuring 22 entrants in the elite and under-23 categories, was held over five laps of a 24.4km course that starts and finishes in the coastal town of Timaru on the South Island. The terrain was fairly undulating but there was a short and steep climb about 5km from the finish.
The elite women's race and the women's under-23 race split on the climb to the second lap, with five riders at the front. The main group consisted of Cadzo (EF Education-Cannondale), Willie and Charlotte Lucas (Luba), and Maxwell and Michaela Harvey (UAE Team ADQ). Ella Harris (LifePlus Wahoo) was chasing behind but was unable to close the gap, despite holding off against the group behind her.
As the race entered the final lap, Lucas dropped back, leaving the top four finishers vying for the national champion's silver fern jersey until the final lap. However, in the end Harvey got away, so at the line it came down to a three-way sprint, with Willie holding off to close out Cadzow.
The U19 men's race was held earlier in the day, with Reeve Roberts taking victory in a combined field with Lachlan McNab in second and Carter Guichard (AG2R Decathlon) in third. Roberts also won the junior time trial on Thursday.
The women's U19 race and the men's U23/elite race will take place on Saturday. This year, the men's field is no longer largely dominated by one team – given the unfortunate demise of New Zealand-based Pro Team Bolton Equities BlackSpoke – but welcomes a growing number of the best European-based pro riders with at least one reliable teammate. This includes the Israeli-Tech duo of George Bennett and Corbin Strong, as well as Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race winner Laurence Pethy and his Groupama FDJ teammate Robin Thompson as well as the Burgos-BH duo of Aaron Jett and George Jackson.
The dynamics of the race are also likely to change due to the distance, which is around 200 kilometers this year, adding about 20 kilometers to the length often seen in recent years.
“The longer race is crucial,” said Bennett, the 2021 race winner. “For a long time we opted for a shorter race. There are a lot of guys who can ride hard for three-and-a-half hours, but when you get into five-hour races you see the difference between the local pros and the international guys.” .
“It's an easy course, a flat course, so without the distance the race would be stable. The fact that it's so long will attract more guys who come to sniff.”
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