“On top of that the replacement wheel was a bit narrower so my front brake wasn’t working very well, and I had to hold off the speed a bit downhill,” said Whitehouse who found himself chasing a leading foursome of Jake Marryatt, Scott Thomas, Paul Odlin and Kees Duyvensteyn.
The 24-year-old climber managed to claw the leaders back one by one charging up the famous Hilltop, where only Marryatt managed to stay clear to take the King of the Mountain prize.
The young Christchurch rider, however, was soon caught by Whitehouse and young Andrew Bidwell from Blenheim who was the only rider to match the defending champion uphill.
On the final stretch, Whitehouse waited for one last steep climb to accelerate and lose his two young competitors to arrive well clear of Bidwell and previous record holder Michael Vink in third place.
In the women’s race, the frustrations of losing last year’s race on the finish line was the perfect motivation for Kate McIlroy to finally win the Miles Continental Le Race in the third attempt.
“I didn’t just want to win the race, but destroy the record,” said the former Olympic triathlete who clearly has not lost any of her competitive juices, winning in 2.49.10.
McIlroy said she was not going to get caught again and was grateful to find a strong group to stay with going up to the Hilltop. “Last year, I had to do a lot of racing by myself, so it made a big difference to be able to stay with a group.”
The 37-year-old said that she “was done with Le Race” after ticking the cycling classic off her bucket list. “But never say never,” said McIlroy who finished more than two minutes ahead of Henrietta Christie and 13 minutes ahead of Julia Grant in third.
Both race winners picked up the $500 winners check as well as the $500 dollar bonus from Harcourts for beating the course record, and were followed by a field of around 700 riders of all ages and abilities, including blind tandem rider Blair McConnell and riders on vintage bikes.
The 53km Le Petite Race to Little River was won by Chris Ross and Sammie Walker in the women’s race.