Rushlee Buchanan Completes Trifecta at New Zealand National Championships
Rushlee Buchanan of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team completed the triple crown of New Zealand national titles this weekend, by adding the Individual Time Trial and Road Race Gold Medals to her Criterium Championship title (Earned in November, 2015). The New Zealand National Championships, held in Napier on the north island, gave Buchanan the chance to defend her previous two victories in the road race (2010, 2014). With an outstanding performance in all three disciplines, Buchanan has shown the excellent form and focus she has established as an Olympic hopeful in 2016.
The Individual Time Trial victory was something of a pleasant surprise for Buchanan, who had set her sights primarily on regaining her road race championship title. After spending time getting comfortable on her TT bike, Buchanan was confident on the course, “The course suited me, it was a loop over rolling terrain with quite a few corners and on the race day it was very, very windy. I’m not a TT specialist, nor am I amazing at technical descents – but I was still confident I could be the best on the day, especially with the windy conditions thrown in the mix.”
In a race against the clock, mental strength is everything. Buchanan held a strong pace and battled into a fierce headwind for the final 2 kilometers before the line. After an anxious “hot seat” wait for other riders to finish and post their times, Buchanan learned she had in taken the victory. Buchanan continued, “I’ve never won an Elite TT before, and while it’s certainly been in my sights I never dreamed it would be this year. I’m not a specialist and I didn’t necessarily train for this TT, but the training that I did was good and everything worked on the day to give me that win. This is, for sure, a career highlight to take out the TT.”
As the target event for Buchanan, the road race course had been closely scrutinized. The loop started and finished in the host town of Napier, with multiple sharp turns and an unpredictable wind. Solo in her effort, Buchanan preserved energy while staying patiently positioned at the front of the pack. As riders fell off the pace, Buchanan used a strong cross wind to attack the pack, putting the rest of the field on the back foot. The tactics worked, and the lead group was whittled down to just eight riders, “It was seriously windy, I had to really concentrate on holding the handlebars and not going off the road. I knew it would be just as hard back behind me so I kept the pressure on until I felt I had done enough damage to myself and to the chasing group,” said Buchanan.
The finishing circuit featured a short but steep climb that once again reduced the size of the lead group. With the crosswinds playing a big factor, the riders at the front worked hard to maintain their lead. With a tailwind finish, Buchanan made sure she was the one to jump first, “We played a bit of cat and mouse until I knew it was time and just put everything I had left into the pedals. I didn’t look back until I had crossed the finish line.”
The road race win completed the triple crown of victories for Rushlee Buchanan at the New Zealand National Championships, earning the privilege to wear the custom Silver Fern jersey with the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team in all disciplines (Road, ITT, Criterium) throughout 2016.