Not even a tropical cyclone could keep Olivia Ray from sprinting to victory in New Zealand’s national road championships on Sunday. Ray won the elite title ahead of Ally Wollaston ( NXTG by Experza) and Georgia Williams (Team BikeExchange-Jayco), rocketing Ray into an extremely exclusive club of cyclists that have won both their national road and criterium titles.
“It’s very cool and means a lot,” said Ray following the podium ceremony. “I have wanted this for so long and to be able to win with my sprint made it even more exciting.”
The true hero on the day was Ray’s teammate Henrietta Christie who was racing in her first event with Human Powered Health. Christie helped control the action on the cyclone-battered course, fighting her way back to the front group not once, not twice, but three times to ensure the competition couldn’t isolate Ray.
“It was great to have Henrietta working so hard and giving everything to keep the pace up and discourage attacks,” Ray added. “It was so motivating to have her fight back over and over. It took the pressure off and gave me some breathing room. It made a huge difference.”
Fans are accustomed to seeing Ray sport the silver fern in criteriums but now she’ll be doing it in the road races of Europe as a member of the Women’s WorldTour.
“This victory means I get to represent New Zealand on a true world stage, that’s what it’s all about. They say ‘earn the fern’ and now I’m going to fly it.”
The under-23 category was combined with the elites which meant Christie won also the silver medal, one better than her bronze in the under-23 time trial a few days before. This string of results bodes well for the team’s inaugural season in the Women’s WorldTour.
1 RAY Olivia Human Powered Health 2:30:13
2 WOLLASTON Ally NXTG by Experza ”
3 WILLIAMS Georgia Team BikeExchange – Jayco 0:02
4 BOTHA Bryony ”
5 MACGREGOR Bronwyn 0:04
6 CHRISTIE Henrietta Human Powered Health 0:06
7 PAWSON Penny 1:27
8 CADZOW Kimberly Torelli – Cayman Islands – Scimitar 1:36
9 WYLLIE Ella 2:40
10 AKEROYD Rhylee 4:27