Ella Wyllie sweeps up victory at elite/U23 New Zealand Championships road race
Ella Wyllie (Liv AlUla Jayco) won a three-way sprint at Friday’s 122.5km long women’s road race at the New Zealand National Championships, claiming victory over both her under 23 and elite rivals in the combined category event.
Elite time trial winner Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale) was second overall while powerful mountain biker Samara Maxwell (Decathlon Ford) came over the line third on the Timaru course. Triathlete Brea Roderick was the second under 23 rider over the line in ninth place overall, while Muireann Green (Black Magic p/b Tineli) came third in the category.
“It was a race of attrition and I stayed patient and alert all day,” said Wyllie, who also won the U23 time trial. “I held back until the last lap to fully unleash, to wear down the last of us coming into the final four kilometres.
“It came down to three of us in a sprint and I backed myself. I’m so stoked to pull it off! All thanks to learnings from a great Aussie summer of racing. And sprinting for road signs against my coach.”
It is the second year running that a rider that was also eligible for the under 23 title has won the overall race, another indicator of the strength of the stream of rising talent coming from New Zealand. In 2023 it was Ally Wollaston who claimed victory across both categories however, after a heavy period of racing in Australia at both Women’s WorldTour events and on the track, Wollaston wasn’t on hand to defend.
The 2024 race, with a compact peloton of 22 across the elite and U23 categories, played out over five laps of a 24.4km course starting and finishing in the port city of Timaru on the South Island. The terrain was largely rolling but there was a short and sharp climb around 5km from the end.
The elite and under 23 women’s race split on the climb on the second lap, with five riders taking to the front. The lead group was comprised of Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale), Wyllie, Sharlotte Lucas (LUPA), Maxwell and Mikayla Harvey (UAE Team ADQ). Ella Harris (LifePlus Wahoo) was in pursuit behind but was unable to bridge the gap, though held out ahead of the group behind.
By the time the race went into the final lap, Lucas had slipped back, leaving the lead four to fight for the national champions jersey emblazoned with the silver fern through the final lap. However in the end Harvey tailed off the back so by the line it came down to a three way sprint, with Wyllie holding off a closing Cadzow.
The under 19 men’s race was earlier in the day, with Reef Roberts claiming victory from the split field with Lachlan McNabb second and Carter Guichard (AG2R Decathlon) third. Roberts also won the junior men’s time trial on Thursday.
The under 19 women’s race and men’s U23/elite race will take place on Saturday. The field of the men’s event is this year no longer so heavily dominated by one team – given the unfortunate demise of New Zealand based Pro Team Bolton Equities BlackSpoke – but is hosting a growing number of top level European-based professional riders with at least one teammate to lean on. This includes the Israel-Premier Tech pair of George Bennett and Corbin Strong, along with Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race winner Laurence Pithie and his Groupama FDJ teammate Reuben Thompson as well as the Burgos-BH duo of Aaron Gate and George Jackson.
The dynamic of the race will also likely be altered by the distance, nearly 200km this year, which adds around 20km to the length most often seen in recent years.
“The longer race is crucial,” said 2021 winner Bennett. “For a long time we went to 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 a domestique pro and the international guys.
“It is an easy course, a flat course, so without the distance it would be a sedentary race. The fact it is so long will bring a lot more guys who will be in with a sniff.”
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