Monday, 2 December 2013


We were on such a high from yesterday’s race that when we sat down for our team meeting, the first port of call was to remind ourselves that the job is not done yet. Although we clean swept the podium, we certainly didn’t do it easily and it took full commitment and selflessness from the team to pull a performance like that together. Rule #12 – never be cocky! (I’m sure there are 11 more important rules and day I will make them up).

The Wigglettes warming up
Photo courtesy Kirsty Baxter

The Wollongong criterium is a short one; just 660metres in length. The circuit takes off and turns a sharp left to start the climb to the opposite end of the track. As the climb goes on it flattens out, but a tailwind along this straight meant that the most opportune place to attack was slightly nullified. We then take a sweeping left all the way to the finish on a downhill run, that was somewhat sheltered from the wind as you ‘S’ through the final widened barricades to the line.

So with the conditions the way they were, the course was very fast and very easy. Usually this would mean that a bunch sprint was looming, but Wiggle Honda had other plans. Our team of riders are aggressive in nature and we were out to have some fun today in the hope for another break that we could be well represented in. This meant that the pace could never ease, and that we would have to counter each other until we could counter no more, or the peloton gave up.

Rocking my new Wiggle Honda dhb skinny!
Photo courtesy og Kirsty Baxter

After a top 10 call up to the line and a few interviews with Channel 9, the race was underway…36 laps to go! After two nervous laps the first bit of action went down, a crash through the finish line that took out Tralaggan, Becker and Rowney. To continue the action I got on the front and drove the pace to hurt some legs, until the only legs I was hurting were my own and the girls had all rejoined the peloton. Rowney seemed fine, Becker had hit her head hard and was a little scattered, and Tralaggan was forced to withdraw a few laps later with cracked forks.

Now with one ‘Wigglette’ less we needed to race even smarter. Collins was the first to re-iniate the attacks and from there they just kept coming. Different combinations continued to launch off the front and come back with the main suspects Hosking, Roy, Rowney, Cromwell, Williamson, Collins, Kitchen and myself taking turns. Plus a few new faces in Viotto, Finegan, Lindores, Martin and Ricardo putting themselves in the mix.

The 6-woman break on our way to lapping the field...
Photo courtesy Kirsty Baxter

On lap 11 it was Collins, Viotto, Martin, Rowney and Williamson on the attack, then lap 12 was Kitchen, Rowney and Hosking before lucky #13 rolled around and I countered an already strung out peloton over the climb with Roy, Viotto and Finegan in tow. Williamson jumped across while Collins nullified the peloton, and Gilmore signaled to Becker to come and join the fun. It was a perfect combination for us so in the first few laps I drove the pace and let my nerves get the better of me before wise ol’ Becker came and said ‘let them think we don’t need this-make them work’.

And she was right, we didn’t need this, because if it didn’t succeed we had three more girls waiting in the peloton to do it all again. So I calmed down and followed her lead. The break co-operated and we continued to extend the gap over a negative peloton and after 24 laps abroad when they were in sight, Becker launched across. Williamson followed not long after, and a mighty chase from Roy with the rest in tow saw all six of us now lap the peloton.

Collins & Kitchen prepare for the sprint for 7th
Photo courtesy Kirsty Baxter

My nerves started to play with me again and saw me go straight around the bunch and attack. My bid for glory didn’t last long and I decided that I needed to calm down and save myself for the finish. The dynamics of the race had now changed and all the early damage had been undone. I needed to rest while my breakaway companions did, and let Collins and Kitchen control the peloton. With 4 laps to go the bunch were given their bell and left to sprint for 7th place. After Hosking was relegated for deviating her line, Kitchen was given seventh and Rowney eighth.

With three laps to go our once group of six was now eight, with two girls not realizing that their race had finished, but it was quickly sorted by the commissaries and the cat and mouse game began. Becker came to me and said ‘so I will attack, and you will sprint’ – I wanted to say no, but we had discussed this exact scenario in our meeting (minus the whole lapping the field thing) and it was decided that I would be the sprinter in this situation. Oh no…

Wiseol' Becker aka Lotte - my secret weapon :)
Photo courtesy Kirsty Baxter

For me, this was hard. I was a domestique, I was never the ‘pea’, and I never put my hand up for it because the pressure is beyond me. So with my heart in my stomach I rolled the last three laps on the wheel of Roy. For some reason the voice in my head piped up asking stupid questions, have I done too much this week? Have I done too much this race? What if I go too early? Or too late? Knowing the sprint ability of all the girls in the group didn’t help because they are ALL good! But I told myself not to worry because I had a secret weapon…I had Becker.

I waited for her final lap attack. I don’t think it came as a surprise to anyone, but still it was a struggle to hold the wheel of Roy as she chased Becker back. I never looked behind to see where the other girls were, and instead watched as Becker teased Roy onto her hip down the sweeping descent, and then accelerated to hold her there like the professional she is. Then when I finally had the guts, I stepped off the wheel and sprinted to the line. I didn’t salute until my whole bike had crossed, just to be sure. Then I screamed and threw my hands to salute. I had won. Becker had finished second. And thanks to Lauren’s win yesterday we had clean swept the series! Watch the replay here.

L-R: Viotto (6th), Becker (2nd), Finegan (5th), Me (1st), Williamson (3rd)
Photo courtesy Andy Zakeli - Illawarra Mercury

It was so special to me that someone like Becker, who was strong enough to win on her own had faith in me to get the job done, and I wondered if people had thought this much of me when I had helped them in the past. I know that Gilmore always did, because she was repaying me this year with an opportunity of a lifetime, to ride with Wiggle Honda and chase my MTB ambitions. We sat down for a quick debrief before we all went our separate ways. 

Gilmore said her congratulation speech and how proud she was of us, and we talked about how once again we had ridden a near perfect race as a team. I spoke about how I was feeling, words from the heart about the enjoyment of being in a team and sharing this with them and my eyes started to well up. So here we were, sitting in deck chairs on the top of the hill at the north end of Wollongong beach, huddled in a bonded circle sharing tears and laughs… What a team :)

The 'A Team' - L-R: Tralaggan, Collins, Kitchen, Me, Becker, Gilmore
Photo courtesy Kirsty Baxter

Day 2 – Wollongong Results
1st    Peta Mullens (Wiggle Honda)
2nd  Charlotte Becker (Wiggle Honda)
3rd   Sophie Williamson (Wakatipu)
4th   Sarah Roy (Roxsolt Sydney Uni)
5th   Kate Finegan (Specialized-Securitor)
6th   Em Viotto (Suzuki-Bontrager)
7th   Lauren Kitchen (Wiggle Honda)
8th   Loren Rowney (Specialized-Securitor)

Overall Results Points Classification
1st    Charlotte Becker (Wiggle Honda)           36pt
2nd   Peta Mullens (Wiggle Honda)                 34pt
3rd    Lauren Kitchen (Wiggle Honda)            32pt
4th    Sophie Williamson (Wakatipu)               29pt
5th    Sarah Roy (Roxsolt Sydney Uni)           27pt
6th    Loren Rowney (Specialized-Securitor)   26pt
7th    Emily Collins (Wiggle Honda)               26pt
8th    Kate Finegan (Specialized-Securitor)      24pt
9th    Em Viotto (Suzuki-Bontrager)                23pt
10th  Tiffany Cromwell (Orica Green-Edge)   21pt

First thanks go to the generous guys at Wiggle for allowing us to race here in Australia, and of course the Wiggle Honda team. Thanks to dhb clothing for spec’ing me out in a cool long-sleeve skinny, and to high 5 for the double-gel kick I get off the start line. Phil Bates and his entire team for putting together another well-run highly paid televised International Gran Prix series, and to Channel 9 for showing the country that we do it just as well as the men do. Of course to our staff who worked tirelessly across the weekend and I know I’ll miss some names here; Jai, Dan, Jon, Glen, Michelle, Alex, Dell and the entire Gilmore family-children included. Not only do you make my job easy, but you are all great company to hold. Can’t wait to do it all again next year..