Almost 100 riders from around the country battled and trudged their way around a specialist circuit in Napier today for the inaugural Specialised New Zealand Cyclo-Cross National Championships.
In the elite men’s race it was Hawke’s Bay local Gary Hall who showed composure in winning the New Zealand title in a time of 56:53.
“I’ve never been a champion at anything so I’m absolutely wrapped,” said the 36-year-old Ramblers Cycling Club rider.
“It was sticky, it was fast, and I was getting pushed all the way by the boys. I could feel them catching up to me on those last few laps.”
A meat inspector by day, Hall gave the EIT Taradale course the seal of approval, but would have preferred his hometown to turn on the rain.
“This is an ideal course. It would have been a lot more fun if it was wet and slippery, but every course is different and I couldn’t rate this one any better,” he said.
The elite women’s field was blessed with a superstar line up, headlined by world number two Katie Compton from the USA.
As an American, Compton was ineligible to compete in the New Zealand nationals, but gave a priceless master class on the day and unofficially rode and won the race.
The official winner and newly crowned New Zealand champion was 33-year-old Kim Hamer-Hurst from Upper Hutt, who crossed the line in a time of 43:48
“It’s absolutely amazing. I’m so stoked. In my lifetime I never expected to be handed an elite New Zealand jersey on a podium by Katie Compton so I’m amazed,” she said.
“I think I might finally come down from all this sometime next week.”
The Wellington Vets Cycling Club rider relished the challenges of the obstacle-like course as well as the chance to compete alongside one of the world’s best.
“The Hawke’s Bay put on an amazing course. It had everything you need really, with some awesome off-camber power climbs which certainly I enjoyed, said Hamer-Hurst.
“It was a really hard course, which is probably why both the men’s and women’s fields just smashed apart so quickly and so many gaps opened up.
“It was always going to be tough with someone as good as Katie Compton on the start line so I was pretty stoked to still be in her company for the first few laps.”
Hamer-Hurst, a full-time doctor, earned UCI points and a national championship today. An impressive feat considering she only took up the sport last winter.
“I’ve made a lot of gains in the last few months with my training and I’ve been mixing it with some of the age-grade guys on the Wellington local circuit so I expected to feature but I wasn’t expecting this,” she said.
Cyclo-Cross is run in the autumn or winter, staged over multiple laps of an approximate 3km course comprising paved tracks, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles that require the rider to dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount.
This event was part of the ‘Ride of Your Life’ Napier Festival which was held over the weekend. Other events included a criterium, bike polo, the Napier Prison Brake, BMX Big Air, Pathways Passport, and a city showcase.
Image courtesy of BikeNZ