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Buchanan hangs tough for fourth road win

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/01/2017

Rushlee Buchanan © Michael Bradley/Getty Images Rushlee Buchanan Rushlee Buchanan hung tough on the hills before out-kicking fellow Rio Olympics track rider Georgia Williams and triathlete-turned-cyclist Kate McIlroy to win the national elite road championship in Napier.

Buchanan successfully defended the title she won last year in Napier, and became the first woman to win the national title four times after wins in 2010 and 2014.

The quartet of Buchanan, McIlroy, Williams and Michaela Drummond tracked down an early break by Hawke's Bay rider Kerri-Anne Page, pushing clear of the peloton by well over a minute.

Drummond was dropped on the final climb of Napier Hill leaving the leading trio locked together before a tactical battle on the final 9.5km flat loop to the Napier Port.

Williams made the initial sprint but the experience of Buchanan proved decisive as she rode over the top to claim the win.

"I knew I wasn't the best climber out there and had to save my energy when I could and dig very, very deep when Kate and Georgia were putting the hammer down," Buchanan said.

"I backed myself for the sprint finish. I knew I had the better jump and that played into my hands."

McIlroy, who will move to the Specialised Women's professional cycling team in Australia this year, was pleased with her first serious efforts in the sport, after an injury-plagued final year in triathlon for the London Olympian.

"I came here wanting to see where I stood racing against these girls who are pretty classy and experienced so to come third, I am pretty happy," McIlroy said.

"I'm new to road cycling and hope to learn from my experiences this year and see how it goes. "

The men race on Sunday over 169km.

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