Tour of the King Valley
Our NRS ladies just can’t seem to cop a break with the weather this year! The Mersey Valley Tour set the tone with gale force winds and hail. Battle of the Border was cancelled outright. King Valley was more of a mud bath than a bike race. On day one, our ladies lined up for the time trial, and then had the afternoon off as the afternoon criterium was cancelled for, you guessed it, unsafe weather conditions. Stage 3 was a war of attrition. Stinging attacks were launched early into the race, and by the time the race hit the dirt sections, the peloton was already stretched out. How do you make things tricker on dirt? Just add water! The heavens opened, hence the resultant mud bath! The climbs and fast descent in the slippery conditions had also done their damage. Holly finished in the bunch, with Lucy just behind in a chase group. The 96.1km stage four was another very testing day. The QOM was particularly aggressive as the race leader had punctured and rival teams sought to maximise their advantage. The field did come back together but the final climb again shattered the group. With a very select group away over the top of the climb, Holly dug in to finish 34 seconds back in the chase group, with Lucy further back in following bunches.
World Masters Gran Fondo Championships
We can at least partially exclude Victoria from being the source of bad racing weather, as she travelled across to the Perth World Grand Fondo Championships and was met with idyllic conditions. A field of over 100 women lined up, with significant representation from USA, Great Britain, Germany and France. As Gran Fondos go, the race was a mixture of controlled angst and utter chaos. In the opening 30km along the freeway, Victoria, bored already, launched the only two attacks of the entire race, then reconciled herself to waiting for the hills like everyone else. Then a men’s bunch came through, and the resulting behaviour of the men was pretty revolting. The men were swearing at the women and then muscled into their lines – when crashes resulted, it was frustrating to hear the post-race chatter from the men in regards to how the women had caused so many crashes. We have a long way to go to eliminate a completely patronising and discouraging ethos from the men of the sport.
In the chaos, Victoria did her best to monitor her competitors. She made her way around the first major crash, but the race was then rapidly heading around a hairpin bend, which completely stretched the field. At that point it became impossible to tell if anyone had slipped away. The first time up the 6km climb, Victoria powered past group after group, bunny hopping riders who were rapidly falling off the leading bunches. Victoria had closed in on what she though was the front of the race in the final kilometre of the climb, but having spent many cookies. No riders were visible any further ahead, and the group was policed by seven very classy women riders, so without any confirmation of other lead bunches, this was the group Victoria continued with.
The pace stayed high for the rest of the race, but it was not an attacking race until the final three kilometres of the last climb. Victoria covered the attacks comfortably and began to mentally prepare for the sprint. She had two riders specifically in her age category, so Victoria set about marking them and waiting patiently for the sprint to unfold. The men created many false flurries, and in one definitive move heading into the final 300metres, Victoria boxed in her American rival on the left, while simultaneously blocking the outside corridor along the barriers for an Australian rival now hovering on her hip. With 200metres to go, Victoria snuck through the now rapidly closing gap on the fence, which cut off any pursuit, and allowed Victoria to step on the gas to clinch the sprint. A classy finish, but no cigar, as two riders has managed to cross for 1st and 2nd in an unseen leaders’ bunch.
Amy’s Otway Tour
It’s official! It’s Holly’s fault it always rains! She’s the only rider who has been at every crap-weather tour of the year. Here she is….grinning……because she’s already told the Weather Gods to bring on the crap to the 119km road stage! Old goat and resident cold fish Victoria was the ONLY competitor on the start line in a vest and arm warmers, while all the other ‘pro’ girls were shivering but expecting to warm up on the mammoth climb that began at the 500m mark of the race. But, guess who had the last laugh?…..and oh how she laughed! When the temperature fell to 3 degrees and the rain set in, suddenly Victoria didn’t look so silly. Not a lot happened until the second QOM, as the ever-strong Justine Barrow set out in the hunt for QOM points. The pace was definitively set upwards of comfortable tempo, and with each pinch of climbing, riders were being shelled. Victoria and Holly kept pace with the leaders, while Christina set about an extraordinary series of comebacks, having been unhitched over the climbs, and resolutely making her way back to the group by herself. The efforts cost her, as did her featherweight status. On the major descent, in the wet and the wind, Christina’s body weight gave her no advantage whatsoever, and she continued to have to expend significant amounts of energy to stay with the group. Victoria was also suffering – from lack of bravery and skill rather than inadequate body mass however. She was gradually relegated to the same 8 rider chase group that Christina was battling to stay with. Holly however, having basked in the weather she brought with her from rainy QLD, had secured her position amongst the leaders. As the chase group hit the Great Ocean Road and the wind, Christina succumbed; not enough gas for one more fight. Victoria worked strongly with the chase group, and they did bring back the leaders. The flurry of attacks that continued along every single bump of the Great Ocean Road, eventually took its toll on Victoria, and 5km from the finish, she became unhitched with a group of four riders. Holly finished a superb 8th, Victoria 37 seconds behind in 14th, and Christina in 24th position.
Round 6 Skinny Lattes Series
It was a small field for the final round of the Skinny Lattes Winter Road Series. Victoria was leading the Elite Category by four points, and the overall series by a less generous one point. Major rivals were absent however, so the Elite Division theoretically couldn’t be lost unless Victoria fell off, but winning the overall series really required no less than second place. Not generally prone to worrying, Victoria was suddenly beset by paranoia – this close to actually winning something rather than being bridesmaid again would surely mean that crashing or puncturing was imminent. ‘The Husband’ was ordered to be trackside with spare wheels, and Victoria engaged in a strategy to absolutely minimise the chance of crashing. Ten minutes into the race, a series of attacks and counter attacks saw Victoria ride away – and the foot never came off the gas! It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t pretty to look at, but the race finished with Victoria crossing the line ¾ of a lap ahead of the rest of the field – job done! Christina finished out the series with a solid overall third place for the Elite Division, a testament to this very gutsy and well-rounded rider………….and yes….it rained!