NRS Tour of South West
Well, we came to the Tour of South West as prepared as we could be. A strong line-up of ladies, team mechanic Tony Kemp, Victoria as DS/masseuse/odd body, and even a team mascot in Bella the miniature schnauzer! Unfortunately, someone again forgot to put in the request for good weather with the powers that be, and Australia’s strongest NRS teams were in a particularly frisky mood.
Stage One Time Trial
A pleasantly unremarkable stage. Only some last-minute bike alterations for Tony 30 seconds before a scheduled start for one of the ladies, but otherwise no dramas. Brittany Steele was the fastest of the ladies in her Darth Vader skin suit – she rode along making the appropriate sound effects. The ladies were reasonably lucky weather-wise. As the competitors continued to leave the start gate, the skies and the wind began an ominous build up. By the end of the NRS ladies, riders with disc wheels were being buffeted by the growing gale. Tony set to work readying the bikes for stage two just as the weather turned truly miserable. Victoria, and team mascot Bella, both dressed in wool lined clothing were both generally unperturbed.
Stage Two Road Race
This stage had many of the NRS ladies expressing general discontent at the race distance for the women. It was a paltry 51km compared to the men, who were not racing an NRS round but had been granted 85km. Considering the abysmal conditions, our team were mightily relieved to pack things in after three laps. Tony, Victoria and Bella were all warmly stowed into the team car. On the start line, the temperature continued to plummet and the clouds were increasingly black. The race began, and the pace was absolutely fierce from the gun. From the team vehicle, Victoria and crew could see the entire field lined out and under pressure heading into the first turn. Within the first three km, the convoy started to slow up. The Chief Commissaire car was pulling over into a ditch. The convoy vehicles all passed safely, but Tony and Victoria could see the Chief Commissaire hurry out of his vehicle and approach the ditch. A few things went through the mind – emergency toilet stop? A piece of equipment coming loose from a vehicle? Tony and Victoria joked with each other – had a rider ended up in a ditch so early in the race?
A few kilometres later, and the pace hadn’t yet eased, but then the hail hit. The rain and hail was so thick and furious, that it was difficult for the convoy to travel safely with visibility no longer extending beyond the bumper in front. As quickly as it had hit, the rain stopped. The convoy was following the peloton down a small hill, so Victoria saw the moment the crash rippled across the women’s field. Like a stone dropped onto a pond, the result was an almost seamless dispersing of riders to either edge of the road. The road being so narrow, and the edge of the road now lined with deeply rutted mud, there was always going to be riders who failed to find a safe path around the fallen rider. Unfortunately, Brittany was one of those riders. Absolutely covered in mud and blood, Victoria and Tony scooped her off the road and loaded her into the first ambulance to arrive. Natascha had been stuck behind the crash and was hurrying through to begin her chase.
Out of no-where, Chloe arrived……….from behind us!? Almost in unison, Victoria and Tony queried “where the hell did you come from?” Turns out, that rider in the ditch……yep! That was Chloe – cut off by a reckless move from another rider and left with no recourse but to veer onto the verge. The verge however, was a clever mask for a two-foot ditch beside the road. Chloe spent the best part of five minutes stuck underneath her bike, wedged between the ditch and a paddock fence. Chloe was increasingly sore throughout her pelvis, so she too was offloaded from her bike and delivered to the same ambulance that had Brittany. Ironically the ambulance was a Mercedes so the girls felt right at home!
Tony and Victoria re-entered the convoy for the third lap. Bree was off the back but chasing valiantly. She initially had a few riders with her, but they weren’t going fast enough so Bree continued her chase by herself. Margeaux was also in strife. She was twenty metres off the back and chasing into a brutal headwind. Victoria and Tony stayed with her as she relentlessly pursued the field. Margeaux also collected a few riders, but they weren’t able to pull many turns. It was Margeaux who resiliently closed the gap and re-joined the bunch. Heartbreakingly, the field was entering the final few kilometres and the speed was increased just as Margeaux had finally made it to the back of the field. Now totally exhausted, she lost contact again, but continued to work to the finish line to stay within sight of the peloton. In fact, all three of the remaining ladies didn’t give up. Working by themselves and fighting the wind, none of them pulled back on their work efforts until the race was over. It’s the type of fighting spirit that we love in this team.
Stage Three Criterium
The stage three criterium was another fast and furious day. The circuit was extremely narrow, and the conditions windy again. The conditions meant that aggressive cornering and positioning would see early splits in the field. The race was a carbon copy of the day before, with the pace on immediately and the field strung out into the first corners. A group of two riders went off the front immediately. They were brought back within a few laps, only for another breakaway to be launched. The constant breakaway attempt disintegrated the field. Small bunches of riders were strewn around the entire course. One-by-one the groups were red-flagged and pulled from the course. Bree was in her element, with criteriums being her preferred format. Natascha was pulled first. A third of the field was off the course in the first 20 minutes. Margeaux was working well, but then got caught behind riders who had dropped the wheels in front. Now in a working group of five riders, Margeaux continued for another 15 minutes before also being pulled. Bree had maintained her position in the third chase group to finish in the top 30, an impressive ride in an aggressive and talented field.