Sarah and her Vic cycling mates were very fortunate to have the National Junior Road Cycling Championships in Bendigo this year. It was Sarah’s last junior road event, and, like many of the field, she was keen to give it her very best effort.
The first event was the 14k time trial, held on Friday. Sarah was seeded eighth, and after her journey began I took my usual walk along the time trial course. Two to three kilometres in, I cheered Sarah home. I could tell that she had definitely caught time on the girl in front of her, but I thought she was roughly even with her Tasmanian friend Anya, who had been seeded tenth. The girls seeded in front of Sarah were coming past me in roughly one minute intervals, excepting Blackburn’s Jemma, who, at second seed, had overtaken third seed. It was clear that Jemma would win the time trial, but the other placings were impossible to estimate. Second place went to Sophie from SA while Lauren from ACT was given third. Sarah just missed out on the podium, picking up fourth place, and only three seconds ahead of Anya, in fifth position.
Saturday’s road race was in Eaglehawk, an outer suburb of Bendigo. It was 64km long, consisting of ten laps of a 6.4km circuit. Sarah stayed cool and calm when she suffered a puncture a few minutes before the race start. Of course, her mother ran around like a crazy chook, looking for a new race wheel donation from one of the just finished U17 boys. (Thank you, Conor from Bendigo!) With the new wheel on, the race began. There were plenty of attacks, but most attacks were quickly shut down. Finally, with about two and a half laps to go, Jemma made her customary getaway on an uphill segment. The peloton chased hard up the hill but Jemma’s hill climbing skills have to be seen to be believed! Jemma’s lead extended over the remaining two laps, and the peloton prepared themselves for a bunch sprint to the line for silver. Sarah was sitting in a position which dictated her to either go early, or be boxed in, so she sprinted earlier than she would have liked. It was a great effort for a very long sprint. Once again, Sarah had picked up fourth place, with Sophie from SA picking up her second silver medal and Alex from Queensland receiving bronze.
So Sunday arrived. A new beginning, a new race; the criterium. I could see Sarah’s thought bubbles: “No fourth place today.” Within a minute of arriving at the circuit, we saw one of the U17 boys go down. By the time we had walked to the next corner, we had witnessed our second crash. Not good. I hoped the safety statistics would improve. The crit was 25 minutes long, plus a further six laps. Kate from Hawthorn had a 1 lap getaway but she was reeled back in. Sophie from SA attacked, Claire and Alex from Queensland attacked, and Sarah also attacked, but none of these attacks were significant. Sarah was waiting for Jemma to make a move out front and both she and Alex tussled for Jemma’s wheel. Jemma took the front for a good six laps, but she did not breakaway. (‘It was not the plan’, she told me after the race.) Coming into the last lap everyone was fighting for a good position. Sarah knew exactly where she wanted to be, and coming into the last corner, she was sitting in second place. The sprint was on, and, finally, in Sarah’s very last Junior Road National race, she scored herself a medal of the bronze variety! The quinella went to Queensland, with Alex first and Claire second.
Congratulations to Sarah and all the Under 17 girls. You girls rock!