Home > News > Archive > 11th August 2005

Rushlee strikes silver

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
WORLD CLASS: Rushlee Buchanan
WORLD CLASS: Rushlee Buchanan, won silver in the 20km points race at the World Junior Track Cycling Championships. 223051AD

By Colin Thorsen

Te Awamutu’s Rushlee Buchanan has made a sensational start to her World Junior Track Cycling Championships campaign in Austria.

The 17-year-old won silver in the women’s 20km points race, finishing only three points adrift of the winner Andrea Wolfer of Switzerland. She was 10 points clear of the defending world champion Amanda Spratt of Australia, who had to settle for fifth.

After finishing out of the points in the early sprints, Buchanan took the race into her own hands with a magnificent solo break, putting half a lap on the field. Problem was, she was on her own with nine laps to go to the next sprint and 29 laps to the finish. Her energy reserves were fast depleting.

A few laps down the track, eventual winner Andrea Wolfer and the third placed Russian Irina Zemlyanskaya joined her. The trio then worked together, having turns taking the lead.

“I was often struggling to hold their wheel. I was totally spent and wanting to throw up,” says Buchanan.

Sprint lap 20 came around with the three of them off the front. The New Zealander dug deep to claim five points for the win. By that stage the bunch was on the same straight as the leading trio.

“I was giving it everything I had to stay with the other girls and catch the bunch,” says Buchanan.

The Swiss and Russian caught the bunch first. Still gritting her teeth, the Kiwi soon caught the bunch too - automatically securing 20 points for lapping the field. Buchanan says all she was worried about then was staying with the bunch and finishing the race.

“The last 10 laps went extremely fast. I was just trying to stay out of trouble. Knowing I had 25 points, I was thinking I would be in the top five and was pretty stoked with that.”

As she rolled past BikeNZ national track coach Terry Gyde, he screamed at her with the news she had finished second.

“When the final classification came up confirming I’d won silver, I was torn between crying and laughing - trying to breathe at the same time - the New Zealand crowd were ecstatic,” says Buchanan. “On the podium, watching the New Zealand flag go up was another experience.”

If the Te Awamutu first year, under-19 cyclist was a relative unknown before the worlds, she is no longer.

New Zealand’s last junior world championship medallist was Rawea Greenwood in 1995.

World and Olympic champion Sarah Ulmer started her success by winning two gold medals in the individual pursuit and points race at the 1994 junior worlds.

Rushlee’s father, Don Buchanan (president of Te Awamutu Sports Cycling Club) says he is ‘over the moon’.

“I told her before she left that if she could finish in the top five it would be awesome. To win a medal as a first year junior is fantastic news.”

Te Awamutu Sports Cycling Club’s Graham Bunn was at the race. He phoned Don, with six laps to go, to say Rushlee was in medal contention but wouldn’t know which one until the last sprint. Bunn is officiating as a New Zealand junior track selector and junior road coach in Austria.

Not surprisingly, Buchanan had trouble coming down to earth and focusing for the individual pursuit the following day. She went close to a personal best in finishing 15th out of 24. The Te Awamutu teenager was about to contest the scratch race as this edition went to press, before focussing on the world road race.

It was a mighty day for the Kiwis on Tuesday. Besides Buchanan’s silver, the men’s team pursuit caused a boilover winning gold. Rotorua’s Sam Bewley had started the ball rolling with silver in the men’s individual pursuit on Monday.