Years ago, when Niamh Fisher-Black heard the announcement that the UCI Road World Championships were to take place in Wollongong, Australia – offering about the closest thing to a home race that a New Zealander could get – the talented racer, who hadn’t even turned professional, set his sights on this race.
The 22-year-old’s record made it clear that she was an exciting prospect for New Zealand and not just for the U23 title but also for the elite event, in which the category resided. A solid mid-season, including a fifth overall in the Giro d’Italia Donne as well as victory in the youth classification, unfortunately came to an abrupt end with a broken collarbone in August during the Tour of Scandinavia, threatening get out of the race before the race had even started.
“I really wanted to be here and I think that’s what got me through the injuries and got me back on the bike and come back good because I knew it was a good opportunity,” Fisher-Black told the media. heard about this very steep climb and big mountain of Mt Keira and said “this is for me”.
“I like the climbs and I like when it’s steep and hard,” Fisher-Black said of the 164.3 km run with 2,433 meters of elevation gain. “So I was very excited about this race for a long time and I’m glad I was able to get here and have a great race.”
A “beautiful race” which resulted in historic results. Fisher-Black is the first-ever women’s U23 title holder in the road race and the first New Zealand woman to win a road race title at the World Road Championships, with Linda Villumsen winning the time trial in 2015 .
Fisher-Black won the rainbow jersey by being the first U23 runner to cross the line in the elite women’s race. The New Zealand rider finished 12th overall, in the chasing group behind winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands). Her nearest rival, Pfeiffer Georgie (Great Britain), finished 16th, then it was Ricarda Bauernfeind (Germany) who, when she crossed the finish line in 20th place, had not realized that she was on the U23 podium.
The title’s addition was warmly welcomed when it was announced last year, but the format was not, with Fisher-Black among those criticizing the creation of a race within a race.
“I stand by what I said, but I think with women’s cycling we see so much development in the sport itself and I think that’s a step forward and we have to accept that’s a step forward,” Black said. In the next few years we may see a separate race for the U23s.
Two more editions of the U23 title are expected to be wrapped in the elite race, with no separate rider quota, as 2025 is the first year the women are to have a stand-alone race. A men’s under-23 race was introduced at the World Road Championships in 1996.
“I was just focused on the race today and that race was crossing the line first, in the elites too, it was just something else to play on the mind,” Fisher said. -Black. I’m wearing a rainbow jersey right now. Nothing takes away that feeling – it’s one of the most special feelings you can have in cycling.
“It’s what everyone dreams of, wearing a rainbow jersey so it’s an incredible step forward for women’s cycling and I’m proud to be the first U23 winner.”
Plus, since it was so close to home, she was able to do it with friends, family and a group of Kiwi supporters cheering on the side of the road as the 164.4km race got under way. ran from Helensburgh along the coast to Wollongong and through the circuit radiating from the city.
“I’m really proud to be flying the fern in the top ranks of road cycling as it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a top New Zealand athlete on the road so well,” Fisher-Black said. in reference to the national performance at the world championships. “And wearing a rainbow jersey and standing on the top step with the fern is something special. And I’m proud of it.”