Georgia Williams swept up her fifth New Zealand time trial title on Friday with a dominant performance on an undulating course in South Waikato, while Aaron Gate took his second elite title in the race against the clock after both riders managed to hold on to their lead despite mechanical difficulties.
It was a replication of the top two steps of the 2021 podium in the 33.5km elite men’s time trial with George Bennett coming over the line in Tokoroa with the second fastest time again in 2023. The UAE Team Emirates rider was just under seven seconds behind Gate, who stopped the clock in 44:42.25 to claim the title. In third it was James Oram, Gate’s teammate at Bolton Equities Black Spoke which has this season levelled up to become New Zealand’s first ProTeam.
“This one is special. It’s cool to have this jersey and take it overseas with my Bolton Equities Black Spoke team to Europe. I am looking forward to flying the flag in time trials this year,” Gate said after the event, which wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 32 year old. “I dropped my chain and would have kicked myself if that came down to winning but just had enough to hold George off.”
In the elite women’s time trial none of Williams’ rivals came even close to matching the time of 50:42.74 as the 29 year old secured the title for a third year in a row, with Georgia Perry her nearest elite competitor, more than a minute and 20 seconds back, then it was Sharlotte Lucas in third.
“It was a really hard course. I paced it as well as I could,” said Williams in a Cycling New Zealand media release. I had a slow leak after about 8km and lost pressure in my rear tyre and did not have a spare disc which cost me a little bit.”
“I guess I have to come back next year to beat the record.”
Despite there being some doubt about whether or not Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep) would line up – she had surgery to remove some metal from her wrist this week – the national criterium champion managed to stop the clock at 50:08.69 to claim victory in the under 23 women’s event with a time that was faster than that of the elite winner, Williams. Henrietta Christie (Human Powered Health) came second in the U23 category – 1:28 behind Wollaston but still the third fastest women of the day behind Wollaston and Williams, while Ella Wyllie (LifePlus Wahoo) took the final spot on the U23 podium.
Logan Currie (Bolton Equities Black Spoke) went into the U23 men’s competition as a clear favourite, having come fourth in the time trial in the category at the World Championships in Wollongong last year, and not only did he win the U23 men’s national title on Friday but he did it with a time of 42:54.79. That was around 1:48 less than Gate’s elite title winning time. Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) too stopped the clock faster than all the elite riders and was just over 53 seconds back from Currie. Alexander White (Aevolo) took third.
The races against the clock for the elite and U23 riders all played out on an 33.5km course with 381m of climbing, through from late morning to early afternoon in mild conditions. The U19 riders had a turnaround, to cut the distance to 22.9km with 233m of elevation gain.
Noah Hollamby (ilabb Fruzio Devo) won the junior men’s title ahead of Elliot Robertson and James Gardner while Muireann Green (Black Magic Women’s Cycling) took out the U19 women’s event ahead of teammate Kirsty Watts and Zoe Spillane.
Next on the agenda at the New Zealand National Championships are the road races, which will unfold over the weekend. They run over a loop which was also included in the time trial course. The combined women’s elite and U23 road race will take in four laps of the course on Saturday for a total of 105.9km and 1,354m of elevation gain while the U23 and elite men’s race completes seven laps on Sunday for 178.2km and 2,347m of climbing.
“It looks like it will suit an allround rider which I think I am,” said the in form EF Education-Tibco-SVB rider Williams, who has not only won the time trial title five times but has also taken the road race victory three times. Williams, however, will as always be closely watched and have to contend with a number of strong challengers, including Michaela Drummond (Zaaf Cycling) and a trio of strong U23 riders in Christie, Wollaston and Wyllie. As the road race is a combined event an U23 rider can claim the elite victory if they are first over the line.
The elite men’s race defending champion James Fouche of Bolton Equities Black Spoke said he expects the men’s event to be a race of attrition. “There is going to be no hiding in this race.”
Fouche will be lining up in a team with numbers and options, but will also have a strong group of WorldTour riders to contend with, from 2021 national champion Bennett, 2020 victor Shane Archbold (Bora-Hansgrohe), Campbell Stewart (Jayco-AlUla) and Groupama-FDJ under-23 riders Pithie and Reuben Thompson.