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Trek Factory Racing’s Hayden Roulston has won the first ever race for the new WorldTour team by outsprinting Jack Bauer of Garmin-Sharp and triathlete Tom Davison, a surprise third. The battle for New Zealand’s National Road Champion came down to these three men after a grueling 183.7-kilometer race of attrition that saw only 16 finishers from 72 starters. In the end Roulston had enough left to outkick his two breakaway partners, all clearly showing fatigue of a hard, tough battle.
“The race was very, very tough. It was a war of attrition out there,” Roulston explained. “I wasn’t feeling super today but I was definitely strong. Coming to the finish it was just a sprint between me and Jack Bauer and I beat him to the line. I am super happy!”
The course, uniquely set within the city streets of Christchurch, consisted of 12 laps of 15.6-kilometers with one significant hill for 10 of the laps. The power climb suited Roulston’s strengths, 1.5 kilometers in length with a gradient of 8 percent, and coupled with the extreme windy conditions, plus an aggressive start that saw an early break escape, the race turned into a death march. Unlike years past Roulston did not wait until the end before making a blistering attack that shattered the peloton. At the 40-kilometer mark he decided it was time, and with the help of Teammate Jesse Sergent made the move that left last year teammate George Bennett, now a rival with team Cannondale, behind in the chase group. However pre-race favorite Jack Bauer was attentive and made the split that would eventually become the race winning lead group of seven riders.
“I decided to go early because you are never guaranteed to claw the break back especially if you don’t have a team. Jesse [Sergent] did a great, great job – he played a huge part in the race to make that break happen. It was a crosswind section and I knew even though we had 130 kilometers to race that if we went now we could get across to the front break. He did a five minute turn in the cross wind, and he did the whole thing himself, and got us across to the front group. It was just a great effort by him and after that his day was done.”
The lead group eventually whittled down to five, and then to three, a result of a few hard attacks by Roulston on the Dyers Pass climb. By the last two laps it was apparent the trio was tired, and it was going to be who ever had any legs left that would win the title.
“It was such a hard, hard day,” continued Roulston. “I averaged 310 watts for over four and half hours. That’s a massive day in Europe let alone in New Zealand. We were all wondering with 40 kilometers to go if we would even make it to the finish it was that brutal of a race. I did not worry about taking the lead at the end for the sprint because at the end of a race like that everyone is in a bad boat.”