Former New Zealand champion Michael Vink on Saturday broke the Le Race course record to claim his third victory in the cycling classic.
The winner from 2010 and 2013 returned with a vengeance in 2021 to win the 100km race between Christchurch and Akarao in 2hrs30m05s.
“Conditions were pretty good, and the record was on the cards, so I really pushed hard to get the record,” smiled Vink after a commanding performance in which mountain-bike champion Anton Cooper was the only rider to provide real resistance.
“When I saw Anton, I thought that was me done, and he would win quite easily as Anton is so strong in the short, sharp climbs.”
Instead Vink unexpectedly found himself on his own on one of the small descents on Summit Road and never looked back.
“Anton must have lost his legs, and I just stuck to our plan and rode hard to the finish line.”
The record time confirms the outstanding form the 29-year-old Christchurch rider has enjoyed lately.
“Typical isn’t it? I’m in great form and now there are no international races.”
The lightning fast time was even more remarkable considering Vink had been competing in a virtual overseas Swift competition mere hours before the start.
“That race started at 1.30am so only had a couple of hours sleep and hit the coffee machine pretty hard this morning,” said Vink, who won his first Le Race as a 17-year-old in 2010.
“So it’s pretty cool to come back and win it again all those years later.”
In the women’s race, Kate McIlroy defended her Le Race title after vowing that the 2019 race would be her final hurray in Akaroa.
The former Olympic and Commonwealth track athlete, triathlete and cyclist, had won the 2019 race in a record time to avenge her unexpected loss in 2018.
“This year I hadn’t really planned to race here, but I was in Christchurch, so I thought why not?”
McIlroy admitted that she was still wondering what she had signed up on the starting line, as she had not been riding her road bike lately.
“I competed a three-day mountain-bike event last week and had a pretty easy week, so it shows that the fitness does cross over.”
The 39-year-old was competing against a strong field of young Kiwi talents and said that this year’s field had been extremely competitive because many riders are not able join their professional team overseas due to travel restrictions.
“Henrietta (Christie), Sharlotte (Lucas) and Jojo Bauer gave it a real go, so it was a really strong field.“
McIloy’s plan to break up her competitors on the famous steep climb to the Hilltop Tavern worked a treat.
“After that, I was cramping up but was holding on for dear life, until I got to the final descent into Akaroa.”
So is McIlroy coming back to complete a hat-trick as a 40-year-old. “Who knows?”
Caption: Michael Vink on the Summit Road.
- Michael Vink 2hrs30m05s
- Anton Cooper 2.31.55
- Ollie Jones 2.32.38
- Logan Currie 2.33.11
- Bailey O’Donnell 2.36.29
- Campbell Pithie 2.36.29
- Guy Yarrell 2.36.29
- Jake Marryatt 2.37.10
- Kees Duyvensteyn 2.38.35
- Richard Lawson 2.39.21
- Kate McIlroy 2.54.34
- Sharlotte Lucas 2.57.18
- Jojo Bauer 2.57.18
- Henrietta Christie 2.57.23
- Ellie Parry 3.02.30
- Annamarie Lipp 3.10.33
- Annabelle Bramwell 3.14.07
- Danielle Donaldson 3.18.10
- Grace Anderson 3.25.30
- Koha Chicks 3.27.01