Nelson teenager Niamh Fisher-Black sprinted her way to a national title at the Vantage National Road Cycling Championships in Cambridge while Tasman teammate George Bennett had to settle for a second placing.
Fisher-Black, 19, was part of a four-strong chasing bunch that caught solo breakaway leader Kate McCarthy within 2km of the finish of the 108km women’s race into Cambridge, and then out-kicked her rivals to claim overall honours as she embarks on her first year as a professional for Bigla Katusha in Europe.
It was the second of three wins for the Fisher-Black family with her win following the time trial win on Friday for her brother Finn Fisher-Black who made it a double with the under-23 victory in the road race as he joins the Jumbo Visma development squad.
Bennett, one of the sport’s best climbers, made his move over the big climb of Maungakawa on the second country loop in the men’s race, joined by local rider Michael Torckler.
The pair pushed clear to over three minutes as they returned to Cambridge before Torckler was dropped on the second of six 9km laps. The diminutive Bennett pushed on valiantly, losing time each lap to the charging peloton before it broke to a select group including eventual winner Shane Archbold, Dylan Kennett and Aaron Gate.
With the gap down to a minute, Archbold pushed clear of the chasers and reeled in a tiring Bennett with less than 2km remaining, going on to out-kick him for the sprint finish. Kennett edged Gate for third place.
Earlier, Kate McCarthy from Waikato BOP, took things into her own hands with a break on the Maungakawa climb to take a two-minute lead over a chasing quartet of Fisher-Black, Kate McIlroy, time trial winners Ella Harris and Teresa Adam.
Fisher-Black showed her sprinting prowess to open a gap into the final corner to hold off Harris and Adam.
“There were some big time gaps over the hill and at one stage I thought we might not catch,” said Fisher-Black.
“The four of us knew we had to put our heads down to catch her. It didn’t come quickly but coming into the finish circuit we knew we had it.
“It was a pretty surreal feeling to put the hands up going over the line. It is amazing.
“It is crazy – my first year as a professional and to wear a Bigla Katashu national jersey is going to be very cool. I am going to be very proud to wear it.”