Villumsen headlines a strong woman’s field
Villumsen headlines a strong woman’s field for Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling
5 December 2013
World Championship multi medallist Linda Villumsen headlines a strong woman’s field in this weekend’s Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling that features the 90 kilometre Waipara Classic road race on Saturday and criterium racing on Sunday.
Villumsen has been in very good form since returning to the Pro Tour after a prolonged break after last year’s Olympics, where she narrowly missed out on a medal in the women's time trial by only two seconds.
She has won three bronze medals and two silver medals in the time trial at the past five consecutive world championships; the only New Zealand rider to win an elite medal at any road world championships, and is the only woman to make it to the podium at five successive world championships in the time trial.
Now riding for the Wiggle Honda professional team, Villumsen won the overall honours at La Route de France and was fifth in the Thuringen Rundfahrt and 14th overall in the Giro d'Italia.
Villumsen rounded out her overseas campaign battling to an impressive sixth place in the World Championship Road Race in Italy despite suffering from a nasty cold.
She is now in her off season and is building base miles for next year which kicks off with next month’s Calder Stewart Elite National Championships, where she will defend the time trial title.
“It’s always challenging racing at home at this time of year,” Villumsen said. “Some of the local girls are on fire but that’s a good challenge and it’s really good to see the young riders coming through.”
Former Otago University student Reta Trotman is now based in Christchurch, and is in good form after an impressive double win at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge last weekend, winning both the women’s criterium and road race.
Trotman rode well in her debut season for German pro team MaxxSOLAR with a highlight a second place in the mountain classification of the Gracia Orlova Tour.
Trotman rides aggressively and is sure to have an impact in both the road race and criterium that will also feature professional riders Sophie Williamson and Kate Chilcott, who both ride for US based women’s pro team Vanderkitten.
Williamson has had a challenging first year in the senior pro ranks that has seen her off the bike a number of times due to injuries and ‘constant niggles,’ but is keen for a ‘good hard hit out at the weekend.’
“I’m really keen for some tough racing at the weekend,” she said. “I’ve done the Festival so many times and really enjoy it and need a hard weekend of racing to build towards next month’s elite nationals. Obviously Linda (Villumsen) is the one to watch but a lot depends on what her goals are at the moment and you just never know what can happen on the day.”
Williamson showed signs of returning to form with a solid display at the NSW International Grand Prix in Sydney at the weekend where she finished fourth overall after two races. She is looking forward to an injury free year next year as she plans to juggle her commitments on the road with Vanderkitten and a track programme she hopes will get her selected for the Commonwealth Games.
The full time pros will not have it all their own way with Sharlotte Lucas (Benchmark Homes), the experienced Karen Fulton (Fresh Choice) from Nelson and Marewa Kraak (Benchmark Homes) all expected to feature as well.
Tour of Southland winner James Oram and Christchurch rider Sam Horgan lead the elite men’s entries for the weekends racing.
Oram, still only 20 years old, rides for US-based Bissell Development Cycling and said he was ‘looking forward to racing in festival for the first time.’
“I really like Christchurch and know a few down there so I’m looking forward to a hard hit out and opening the legs up after the break I’ve had after Southland.”
Oram took two weeks off after his Southland win and resumed training a week ago so is keen to see how the body feels as he is another elite rider looking towards next month’s elite national champs in Christchurch.
Horgan has had a very good year racing in the National Road Series in Australia for Continental team Budget Forklifts, winning the Tour of the Great South Coast in September, claiming second in two stages of the Capital Tour of Canberra and winning the prestigious Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic in October.
Riding in Benchmark Homes Cycling Team colours Horgan won the Benchmark Homes Elite Cycling Series in October to cap off his best year on the bike, but says nothing is a given at the weekend but thinks the road race course does offer a ‘variety of ways to win the race.’
“It’s a challenging enough course with a climb early then another one after the halfway point after which I hope there’s some good cross winds that will help break things up,” he said.
“It’s a good all rounders course and offers the chance for a break to get away and make it stick; I’m hoping it’s a good hard aggressive race.”
There are a number of well performed local riders that should push Oram and Horgan, including Dan Barry, who rode for UK based continental Node4 this year and is moving to join Horgan at Budget Forklifts for next year, Tom Hubbard, Antony Chapman, Brad Tuhi and young riders Sam Friend, Ben Johnstone, Adam Bull, Connor Stead and Richard Lawson.
Although the Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling features the elite racing there are lots of various abilities spread across a number of other events over the weekend.
On Saturday there is also a recreational road ride, the Hurunui Vineyard Mountain Bike Ride, the Glenmark Challenge bike event for children, a family run-ride event and a 10 kilometre Vineyard Trail Run through the Waipara Vineyards.
Canterbury University hosts the second day of racing, with the tight and technical criterium racing mixed in with a number of special events including a children’s race and the Free Wheelin Frenzy 150, a charity wheel chair race that raises awareness for the work done by the NZ Spinal Trust.
Last year’s Wheelin Frenzy 150 winner Jo Nicholls-Parker (the former Mayoress of Christchurch) is returning to defend her hard fought title. She is being joined by Mayor Lianne Dalziel and former Mayor Garry Moore, new Christchurch City Councillor Raf Manji and Spinal Surgeon Raj Singhal.