Wirtgen Group Centrals Junior Tour, 2016

It had been two years since our last visit to the beautiful Barossa Valley for the South Australian Junior Tour. It was a school weekend, but Anzac Day made it a long one, and with entry deadlines appearing, we decided to go and it was race on! The weather for the weekend was stunning and the scenery, as always in the Barossa, was superb.

The South Australians are great at looking after us interstate people, so when Sarah’s Garmin would not turn on shortly before the race start, Sarah was handed a loan Garmin. Thanks Mike and Olivia! The first race was 40 km which was two laps of a 20k circuit. The Queen of the Mountain was a short climb up the back of the renowned Menglers Hill. Emily from WA quickly made her presence known with the first QOM. Olivia (SA) came over second and Sarah, for whom the hill was too short and too early in the race, was a short distance behind in third. Rolling hills followed and Sarah managed to close the gap between herself and the front two. When the hill came around the second time, Emily again won the QOM, and this time with Sarah in second, the two riders made the break from Olivia. Emily and Sarah continued out front with Olivia on her own, just a short distance behind. At the race end Emily took the sprint from Sarah with Olivia coming home in third place.

Race two began just over an hour after the first race ended…or less, if you finished further up the field! This race was 30 km and was the real deal, with the front face of Menglers Hill. Menglers Hill is a beast of a climb, about four kilometers long, and averaging a 9.96% gradient. Emily again showed her hill climbing strength, leading the pack with Sarah, Olivia and Brooklyn (SA) following on her wheel. About sixty percent of the way through the climb, Sarah dropped off Emily’s wheel and Emily opened up a fifteen meter gap on the three girls. This was huge, given the gradient of the hill. However, the gap remained steady and did not increase. About eighty percent of the way up, Sarah found some renewed energy and closed the gap to about five meters with Olivia taking over and closing the rest of the gap. Finally the QOM sign appeared and there was Sarah sprinting alongside Emily and taking the QOM..amazing to see, I was sure that Sarah had ‘popped’ half way up! (I should never underestimate Sarah in a bike race!)

The race finished with another sprint between Sarah and Emily; this time Sarah took line honours. Third place was a sprint between Olivia and Brooklyn. So after two stages Sarah and Emily were completely tied on time, to the exact second, with Olivia sitting in third place.

Sunday morning involved two laps of a 25km circuit. Sarah was three points behind Emily in the QOM, and this time Emily looked determined to not have any QOM points taken from her. Having stayed in her seat for all the previous hill climbs, Emily stood out of the seat and set an aggressive pace. Olivia and Brooklyn were riding hard and only Sarah looked calm, sitting at the back of the other three. At the QOM Emily was still out front and Sarah had moved to second place. The pace was still red hot and I was sure that someone in the group of four would ‘pop’. On the descent Sarah managed to get away and she spent some solo time out front. Olivia also spent solo time out front, but both girls were caught each time. Before the final QOM at the beginning of lap two, Emily had been dropped and Sarah picked up the QOM. The race finish involved a three way sprint, with Brooklyn picking up first place, Sarah second and Olivia third.

With the time trial to go, Sarah was sitting in first place, 59 seconds in front of Olivia, and 2 min 30 seconds in front of Emily. Olivia’s strength lay in the time trial. Olivia put in a great effort and picked up 40 seconds on Sarah, leaving Sarah with a 19 second overall win. Emily picked up third place overall, and won the QOM by one point from Sarah.
All the JW17s raced well and were exciting to watch from my position in the lead car. Unfortunately, the weekend was marred by a crash in the Under 17 boys and our thoughts are with Angus and his family. Hugs, Angus! Get well soon!

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