Rush pipped in stage but secures series

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Oamaru cyclist Tim Rush secured his first Calder Stewart series title on Sunday with a second placing in the gruelling ‘‘hell of the south’’ stage at Leeston, near Christchurch. Leading the men’s New Zealand elite national championships going into the final stage, Rush was pipped at the post in a sprint finish by Michael Vink, while Rush’s Mike Greer Homes team­mate, Sam Horgan, finished third. Rio Olympian Dylan Kennett, Hugh Jones and James Williamson unsuccessfully tried to bridge across to the leaders on the second lap of the 38km circuit that featured two gravel sections.
The main peloton was content to let the two groups of three riders work hard at the front of the race untila number of teams picked up the pace on the third lap, and the two lead groups were caught with about 60km still to race.
The pace intensified on the final lap with teams all trying to position their key riders at the front as the race hit the gravel sections. Rush briefly hit the front before the last section of gravel, and Rush, Horgan, Vink and under­23 series leader Ben Johnstone came out of the last section of gravel in the lead. However, Johnstone suffered a puncture, along with his team­mate and favourite for line honours, Alex Frame, with just 1.6km left to race. Rush was happy with his second placing despite the tough terrain, which featured several climbs. ‘‘I thought it got better as the time went on. I struggled at the start but came right as the road gota bit more cleaner. It was really windy and there was some really loose gravel. ‘‘It would have been the hardest stage of the series . . . it made for a tough day out.’’ He was delighted to claim the elite men’s title for 2016, and said his focus would now shift to the Tour of Southland before he tooka well­earned break. ‘‘It’s the first time I’ve actually won the series and to do it so consistently the whole way through. It was really cool to do it for my team.I was honoured, really.’’