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It was triumph for the mountain bike riders at New Zealand’s Cyclo-cross National Championships with Josie Wilcox and Craig Oliver claiming victory in Christchurch at the title race, which was part of the Aotearoa Crossfest.
To decide who would wear the silver fern for a year it was eight laps for the combined elite and U23 men’s field and six for the elite and U23 women on a course located at the Kartsport Canterbury Race Track.
Oliver, who returned from a mountain bike racing stint in Europe and North America, took to the front of the men’s race with Logan Horn, Sam Lindsay and the 2022 U19 winner Coen Nicol. Lindsay fell away before Oliver took off before the final lap. That acceleration meant he gained and held a small advantage right to the line, leaving Nicol and Horn to battle for silver. Nicol charged over the line ahead of Horn, to claim both second overall and the U23 title.
“That was tough,” said Oliver in a media release put out by Cycling New Zealand. “There’s nothing on this course to break it up, so I couldn’t really go and meat-axe it from the start.”
“I wanted to make it hard though to wear them down … I had a small gap on the last lap and gassed it on the kart track to make it hard for them to come back.”
It was a mid-race escape for women’s winner Wilcox, who has worn the silver fern before, most recently after having won the 2020 cross-country Olympic mountain bike title. Wilcox had carved out more than a minute by the line ahead of Sharlotte Lucas, who raced on the road for DNA Pro Cycling and Team TIBCO-SVB from 2021 to 2019.
“It was tough and the wind was quite brutal and I got knocked around a few times,” said Wilcox. “It was a great course. I’ve been fortunate enough to race with the boys mostly this season and that experience played to my strength today.”
Overall third-placed rider Maria Laurie – who has also won an Oceania and national mountain bike title in the junior category – claimed more than a spot on the podium, taking the U23 women’s title as well. Fletcher Adams and Millie Donald claimed the U19 titles.
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