I had been given a more than sufficient handicap of second limit, 26 minutes. In fact in 2010 I had won off this mark, in 2011 was pushed back to third limit, and now the majority of the men I race with were in the 16-20 min bunch...thank you handicapper! Our bunch was undoubtedly favourites to win with a strong women contingent of Cait Fraser Jones, Kate Finnegan and Rachel Ward to help me pressure the men into rolling turns all day. We rode the first 30k in no hurry, climbed three-tier with numbers in mind, and then had the stronger half of the bunch put pressure on until we caught the limit markers at the 45k mark. With a bunch of 13 we were now leading the race, with the only casualty from here on to be Kate Finnegan suffering a mechanical. To win required everyone to roll through, no exceptions, and despite spending the majority of his time on the front, Peter Sens made sure of this.
Behind us on the road the 10, 16 and 20 minutes bunches had combined and with 20k to go were 4 minutes in arrears. Jarrod drove the chase but with a large group of 25 the chase was fruitless. Time checks then became inconsistent so I reverted to the old fashioned check over the shoulder. Our bunch had eased considerably in the final 10k; perhaps some were saving themselves for the finish, or maybe the distance had begun to take its toll on their legs as it had on mine. The strongest men remained where they had been all day, on the front; namely the boys from Camperdown, Stephen Pickles and Alistair Tune, and for the purpose of training I refused to miss a turn alongside them. When we neared the 'Telephone Exchange' to turn for the final climb I knew the winner would come from our bunch. Surprisingly there were no attacks as is usually the norm, just Cait Fraser Jones driving us over the crest and a settling feeling of deja vu from two years back.
There was jostling for wheels with 1km to go and I certainly didn't fancy myself for the win so I moved up to second wheel to avoid any carnage. I would be pleased with a top 5. Warwick McGhee seemed happy to lead it out, and so began the nervous process of gear selection, reaction and timing in the final sprint to the line. I knew I had to go at the sight of a jersey, and in my apprehension I went unexpectedly early giving me a jump on the field. I can't say how long I sprinted, but it was long enough to sit back in the saddle for the final 50m slog. I wasn't convinced I had won it until the final three metres, just enough time to draw myself up high to salute, letting out an uncharacteristic scream. Did I just win the Rob Vernon again?! I was in disbelief.
I have now become the first person to win the modern day Rob Vernon Memorial twice, and still the only female in history. In addition, I am the only female to win two Victorian Road Opens. I am so chuffed! Sometimes the wins you don't expect are the most exciting ones...
Results: Rob Vernon Memorial
Garmin: Peta Mullens
Photos: Courtesy of Darren Casey
Media: WIN News Interview