My three recovery days prior to the Australian Road Championships (video) went quickly. The first was spent unpacking, the second in Melbourne processing my VISA for the upcoming Beijing Track World Cup, and my third was spent in complete mayhem! I had planned to arrive in Buninyong on Friday afternoon in time for coffee with friend Bec Thyne BUT I had remembered that morning that I had flooded my car headlights, and after buying replacement globes that turned out to be completely incompatible with my car, I had decided to simply restrict my driving to daylight hours. Then I realised that I had left my race wheels at my girlfriend Shannon’s house, and when I went to retrieve them, I was not only told that her Mum had taken them to work with her, but that her Dad could fix my lights as he is an auto electrician. An hour later, I didn’t have my wheels, my lights weren’t working and now…my car wouldn’t even start! Eventually…I arrived in Buninyong :)
I was hardly committed to winning the U23 Australian Road Title today. I’d skipped on an early morning pre-start, spent the morning washing my bike with make-up remover wipes and could possibly have been seen buying a ham and cheese roll from the bakery 10 minutes prior to race start…hmm. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to be Australian Champion (who doesn’t right?), it’s more that my recent training has been structured around bigger aspirations later in my season, so I doubted that my power alone, with little aerobic fitness, would get me to the finish. I was taking a more laid back approach to the race assuming that I’d manage to conquer the climb about five times today, so to up the stakes and motivate me somewhat, I started a beneficiary system with Sarah Kent. It said that for every lap completed, a certain amount of alcohol had been earned for tonight…little did I know that we would both end up on the podium (pictured below)!
The 70 starters rolled out at a rather leisurely pace, maybe knowing that only 30 would be able to call themselves finishers today. This particular 102km race, on a circuit (profile) to be completed ten times, doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a Sunday pedal around the park. As you head out left through the finishing banner you're faced with a 1.5km steady hill that doubles as our feeding zone, another left and a more difficult 1.5kms of climbing sees you crest the QOM. Undulations continue for 3km before a final 4kms of descending to the finish, totaling 10.2kms. I was positioned toward the back for the first four laps savoring all the mental and physical energy I could, surprised that I was still intact with the bunch at all! But my legs felt good, and as the race wore on they only felt better. I was comfortable on the flats and climbing like…well a hill climber (pictured below following Tiff Cromwell and leading Kent and Myfanwy Galloway on lap 10).
The pace progressed on the fifth lap, but numbers didn’t start to dwindle until Myfanwy Galloway (ACTAS) led up the climb on lap six, serving as a launching pad for the aggressors. The main aggressor namely Alexis Rhodes (SASI) who attacked on the second section of the climb on lap seven, putting the 18 girls remaining in the peloton on the back foot while she gained a 40 second advantage. I attacked on the back straight with Sarah Kent (WAIS) following suit half a lap later, but it was obvious that SASI didn’t want to give away their U23 title quite that easily. We faced the headwind again on lap 9 up the dreaded climb, and this time Carla Ryan began her title campaign, attacking and taking the four strongest climbers with her in Ruth Corset (QAS), Nikki Butterfield (QAS), Vicki Whitelaw (ACTAS) and Sharon Laws (VIC). This would be the deciding move and I had missed it.
A small chase group of Cromwell (SASI), Carlee Taylor (SASI), Shara Gillow (QAS) and myself evolved and then, despite my initial predictions on the day, I was after more than just a finish. I mustn’t have been the only one because in a group of four U23 riders, nobody wanted to do the chasing and eventually our group swelled to eleven. As we passed under the finishing banner to start our final circuit, the time difference to the lead bunch was a mere 20 seconds. Ryan, sensing the danger, attacked again on the climb and this time would stay away for a solo victory. Forty seconds in arrears was Corset and Butterfield taking out the minor placings, and another forty seconds later I would become Australian U23 Road Champion (pictured above…no salute!). I've been chasing a road title for quite some time but never thought today would be 'it'. Kent finished second with Cromwell third (pictured above). Now Sarah and I have to go and uphold our ends of the bargain :)
Results: Australian Open Road Race Championships, Buninyong, 102kms
* Images courtesy of WomensCycling.net