Grand Prix's Attacking Ways
THE CONDITIONS THAT GREETED RIDERS IN ROUND 3 OF THE RED STAR COFFEE WOMEN'S GRAND PRIX WERE THE POLAR OPPOSITE TO THE LAST TIME THEY CAME TO THE COURSE IN ROUND 1.
With a blazing sun, a slight zephyr of a breeze blowing and the temperatures into the 30's, it was a great day for a bike ride in anyone's language... and the racing did not disappoint either.
Kicking the day off with the prologue, the riders took to the 2.2km circuit determined to show their prowess, set personal best times, and start the day off on a good note.
Among the novice riders to take the course, it was Nadia Combe who posted the fastest time, with a 35.63kph prologue to just pip Sarah Mortley by 0.65 seconds. Bridget Evans came in third place. In a sign of the strength among the women at the top of the classification, the top five riders came in within 4 seconds of the lead. The ladies taking on the Contour Novice Classification are gaining some valuable racing experience in two disciplines - both criterium and time trialling.
As the Grand Prix riders took off for their prologue, it was Sarah Knights (Brunswick) who took her place in the hot seat
Lisa Hanley prepares for her Prologue departure.
Photo: Kirsty Baxter
early posting a 3:18.728 - a time that wasn't beaten for nearly half an hour. It was Liz Hall (Total Rush Hyster- 3:14.835) that had that honour with just ten riders to go....and then the times started falling. Lisa Hanley (Cykel RED) claimed the prize for the day, crushing all comers, and posting a 3:07.702 @ 42.195kph. MYLAPS Sports Timing Prologue classification leader, Nicole Whitburn (Liv/giant- 3:11.132) took second spot, but retained the classification. MeanwhileJenny Macpherson (Liv/giant - 3:11.961) came in third place, Liz Hall in fourth and Lauretta Hanson (Building Champions Squad - 3:16.488) in fifth.
The win leaves Lisa Hanley in the running for the overall classification, trailing Nicole Whitburn by 4 points come Round 4 on Yarra Blvd.
The Contour Novice Criterium got underway, under the watchful eyes of Kate Finegan and Lauretta Hanson (Building Champions Squad) who escorted the ladies and ensuring a safe and enjoyable race. However when the shackles were released with three laps to go, most of the bunch stayed well checked, ensuring no moves got away. In a close sprint to the line, it was Bridget Evans who claimed victory from Sue Madden. Nadia Combe came in third in a very close call ahead of Cheryle Barker.
The second place to Sue Madden hands her the Contour Novice Classification jersey for the final round, having drawn level with Nadia Combe on 48 points. On count-back, Sue's second place in this round sees her awarded the jersey ahead of Nadia's third.
The division 3 criterium certainly saw riders searching for the Coates Hire Laps Leader points on every lap. It made for some aggressive racing, with counter attacks thick and fast. Laps Leader points were handed out for each lap, with only Madison Fitzgerald (Seight Custom Ladies 2) being the multiple points scorer in the classification (2 points).
Suzy Barrett shows her happiness at her first ever win
Photo: Kirsty Baxter
Before the girls knew it, the sprint lap was also on, and Kat Grundy (SKCC Red) comfortably took the points, ahead of Laura Parlevliet (Richmond Cyclery Blackbirds), Helen Bean (Southern Masters CC) and Madison Fitzgerald.
With the bunch together for the best part of the final lap, it was Suzy Barrett (Cyclespeed Vipers) who was first out of the corner, and first out of the saddle as she opened up the throttle to comfortably take the top step of the podium in what was her first ever win! Helen Bean and Madison Fitzgerald filled the minor placings, while Louise Clark (Velo Fille 1) received a copy of The Sufferfest's "Hell Hath No Fury" - a training video using footage from the UCI female peleton- for her fourth place.
Deb Richards claims her second Coates Hire Laps Leader jersey - this time, it's all hers!
Photo: Kirsty Baxter
The division 2 criterium was just as exciting. With many riders having the Laps Leader points in their mind, was consistently saw breaks trying to get away mid-lap, but the sprinters reigning them in order to claim their points.
Attack after attack after attack. If ever there was a criticism about 'boring' women's racing, spectators should have come to see what was on offer on Sunday. Every single lap was decided by a throw to the line.
Within the race, two of the three co-holders of the Coates Hire Laps Leader jersey had a battle on their hands in order to break the shackles of a three-way tie. Georgie Heydon (Hawthorn CC Gold) took the early advantage, but with three laps to go, Deb Richards (Hawthorn CC Black) made her move, and gained two valuable points to take the outright lead on the course. Margie Noonan (Southern Masters CC) and Nonie Carr (Kosdown Performance Cycling) both claimed three points to add to their series tally.
Meanwhile, the mid-race sprint went to Von Micich (Kosdown Performance Cycling) who was desperately trying to stay in touch with the CoreCarbon wheels on offer for the intermediate sprints. Von did what she could, taking the full five points ahead of Hannah Bush (Team Norvo-Nordisk), Emma Jackson (Cykel RED) and Zoe Nicholson (Richmond Cyclery Blackbirds).
Once again, a sprint finish saw the first five rider within half-a-second, led by Carly McCombe (Building Champions Squad), with Emma Jackson, Von Micich and Jaime Gooding (Seight Custom Ladies 1).
The division 1 race was no different to the others, however the breaks were bigger, and chases were longer, and the recoveries more spectacular.
Two big breaks throughout the race by Bridie O'Donnell looked like we'd see the her time trialling experience pay off. It did keep her Total Rush Hyster teammates in Penny Brown, Josie Simpson and Liz Hall protected throughout the race, ensuring a strong finish, with all three coming in the top ten.
An even bigger break by Monique Hanley (Team Novo-Nordisk) looked like it might reap both laps leader and intermediate sprint rewards, however this was pared back with around 1km remaining of the sprint lap.
Sarah Riley attempted to upstage her teammates by pushing for a break with just a couple remaining. While in a classic act of selfless teamwork, Raelene Lesniowska paced Megan Marsh (Hawthorn CC GOLD) back to the bunch
Shenadigans on the top step of the podium
Photo: Kirsty Baxter
successfully, undertaking a two and-a-half lap chase after the field split on the back of a Bridie O'Donnell hammer.
The sprint for the wheels came down to a strange two-way sprint from teammates Jenny Macpherson and Nicole Whitburn, with just 3-one hundredths of a second separating them, much to Von Micich's audible disappointment from the sidelines. Points were also handed to Lisa Hanley and Kate Finegan.
With Finegan one of the three riders entering round 3 wearing the Coates Hire Laps Leader jersey, she needed 3 points of her own to wear it outright. However the race was really on for riders to collect. The points were well shared around, with Lauretta Hanson being the biggest beneficiary from the race with three of her own. Finegan failed to open her account, and is now two points off the pace.
Nicole Whitburn again proved her dominance, taking the two up sprint with Jenny Macpherson. Lisa Hanley followed her good form with third, while Lauretta Hanson claimed fourth.
The Red Star Coffee Women's Grand Prix now heads to Yarra Blvd, Burnley on Saturday March 23rd for the finale in the series for this summer.
Riders should also standby for some important and very exciting news about next season's series.