Georgia Williams claims NZ National double with brilliant solo effort




Mitchelton-Scott professional Georgia Williams has scored a dominating double by adding the road race honours to Friday’s time trial win at the BDO New Zealand Road Cycling Championships in Napier.

The 24-year-old bridged up to the breakaway on the first climb of Napier Hill and from there soloed away for an emphatic victory in the 114km road race championship.

Williams has previously finished runner-up three times in the road race in her four attempts, but the experience of a debut year on the women’s world tour showed in her dominant display.

The Aucklander had previously been a key part of the Vantage Elite endurance track squad, having competed at the Rio Olympics, before a late call up to the Australian-based team in 2017.

Her development was on display with a powerful effort to win the time trial title by 40 seconds on the first day and with a quite brilliant effort in the road race.

She won in 3:37:05 with a massive 4:41 to Sharlotte Lucas (Velo Project, Canterbury) who out-sprinted under-23 winner Grace Anderson (Team Illuminate, Auckland) and local Hawkes Bay rider Kirsty McCallum (Velo Project).

Georgia Williams enjoys victory, while she leads defending champion Rushlee Buchanan on the climb in the elite women’s road race at the BDO New Zealand Road Cycling Championships in Napier.

Credit: John Cowpland

“I can’t explain how excited I am with the win. It was perfect today,” said Williams. “It is a dream come true. I came here aimed at winning this title. It’s brilliant.

“The Aussie girls in my team at Mitchelton-Scott have been ribbing me about it and to be the first person from our team to win a title in 2018 is fantastic. It is going to be a real honour to wear the New Zealand jersey in all the big races around the world this year.”

Williams might have the last laugh with her team bosses indicating she would be released to ride in the Commonwealth Games where she could well come up against some of those teammates.

She sat in the peloton on the 55km country loop to the Taradale hills, while Kerri-Anne Page, Laura Newman-Watt and Natalie Kerwin opened a four-minute advantage. Williams jumped out of the pack to bridge up to the leaders on the first of five climbs of the infamous Napier Hill.

By the end of the first full lap of the city circuit, Williams had opened a 30 second advantage on Page and 1:10 on the peloton. At the top of the hill for the second time Williams had continued to solo away with 1:41 to Page, and a massive 2:45 to the 14-strong bunch.

From that point she simply powered away for an emphatic win.

“I wanted to make it a hard race. I went to basically split up the bunch but when I got to the top of the hill no-one had come with me. I continued on and the gap kept growing,” Williams said.

“I got nervous that I may have gone too early but I felt strong and just focussed. It’s amazing to win and to do it with such a big margin.”

It proved an excellent performance from Lucas, McCallum and Anderson, who kept her wits about her in the closing stages with several under-23 riders grouped in the bunch.

“I managed to position myself well and get near the front on the climb. I was aware they were around me but pushed hard for the line. It’s great to win the title,” said Anderson, who will return to her US-based Team Illuminate this year.

In the elite ranks the experienced Kate McIlroy was fourth ahead of Rio Olympians Raquel Sheath and defending champion Rushlee Buchanan with debutante Jojo Bauer, sister of World Tour rider Jack Bauer, seventh in her first national championship.

Tomorrow the elite and under-23 men do battle over 171 kms with an initial 81 kms in the Taradale hills before eight laps of the city circuit, starting at 8.30am.

Results, elite women, 114km: Georgia Williams (Mitchelton-Scott, Auckland) 3:27.05, 1; Sharlotte Lucas (Velo Project, Canterbury) at 4:41, 2; Kirsty McCallum (Velo Project, Hawkes Bay) same time, 3; Kate McIlroy (Team Specialized, Wellington) at 4:42, 4; Racquel Sheath (Waikato BOP) at 5:37, 5.

Under-23: Grace Anderson (Team Illuminate, Auckland) 3:31.46, 1; Deborah Paine (Tank Guy, Tauranga) at 2s, 2; Lydia Rippon (Mike Greerton Homes, Auckland) at 32s, 3; Georgia Catterick (Team Illuminate, Tasman) at 33s, 4; Mikayla Harvey (Southland) at 4:48, 5.