Everybody claims that Ballarat is the coldest town in Victoria. So why is it that every time I venture there its 40 degrees? And why is it that the famous Lake Wendouree is the furtherest thing from a lake I’ve ever seen?? I wasn’t worried as I had my air conditioned room to return to, that was until my power cut out due to the bushfires. My biggest worry was not being able to blow-dry my hair! So when a girl has no television, no laptop, low battery phone and no hair dryer what is she to do but paint her nails! It had been a lonely few days for me. Anna had left after the conclusion of the Men’s time trial on the Thursday, and I had passed time relaxing in my accomodation at the Ballarat Lodge. Had it not been for riding and meal times, I would have had nothing to look forward to. I only managed one lap of the race circuit, as I figured that if I was to do all ten laps of Saturday that would more than suffice.
Today was the day. The Australian Open Road Race Championships. Although a long way from my most important race this season, it definitely meant a lot to me as I had spent the last 4 months specifically training for it! Anna had managed to pull together a women’s VIS team, 8 in strength with the defending Australian Road Race champion in Katie Mactier and the current Australian Time Trial champion in Bridie O’Donnell. There were no secrets as to who we were working for - Katie, and it was no mystery whom we needed to shed - Rochelle Gilmore (NSW). She was our main threat if a bunch kick was to prevail and her recent form had me mildly worried. With a massive field we rolled out onto the 10.2km circuit and immediately began on a 3km section of climbing, which on consecutive laps would become the feeding zone. With two sections to the climb, before some false flat leading to the descent, it proves a tough course to make up lost time. And despite race tactics, that is exactly what we found ourselves doing...
10 laps, 90 starters, sweltering heat and some very good form told the story of what was supposed to be a very impressive race on my behalf. Tory Thomas (VIS) kicked off the initial attack on the first hill of the day, and although falling off the pace not long after, set up a 2 minute lead for the likes of Ruth Corset (QLD) and Amanda Spratt (NSW). Our fifth time up the climb saw Lorian Graham softening the legs of many in the bunch, before a re-group at the summit resulted in the field together again. But if at first you don’t succeed, try again, and with those words in mouth Graham splintered the bunch the following time around as I watched 9 girls climb away from me. At first I didn’t realise the bunch had split, too concentrated on my feed to come from coach Liz Taylor, so when I looked up and saw that I was sitting third wheel chasing a 50metre gap, I was devastated. I tried to jump across but my efforts were short lived, a glance over my shoulder to the girls close by giving me hope that it would all come back together again.
By the top of the climb I was in a group of 10, with 3 fellow VIS team-mates, the presence of Katie and the absence of Rochelle. For the remainder of the lap Bridie and I took up the pace making in an attempt to regain contact with the lead bunch. It didn’t take long for me to drop off on the climb the following lap, while Bridie, the machine that she is, yo-yoed on and off the pack doing all that she could for the team. The gap (pictured) dwindled but the join was never made, and as it happens Katie was forced to chase just to finish after a dismount to tighten some very suspicious handlebars. Tory, Jess Berry and Kath O’Shea withdrew from the race after team commitments had been carried out, while Emma Rickards was unfortunate to cramp in the final lap. Helen Kelly and I finished hoop group, as we refused a DNF, but stopped momentarily atop the KOM to hear the radio coverage of the stage finish, Oenone Wood (ACT) taking the win in a two up sprint against visitor Sharon Laws. With racing in Geelong and New Zealand in sight, I am in no way prepared to dwell on what could have been.
Results: Australian Open Road Race Championships, Buninyong, 102kms
* Images courtesy of WomensCycling.net