2017 Supercrit!

“It’s showtime!”,  calls Lee Turner, through the megaphone  at  the Shimano Supercrit on a perfect summer’s day. A classy field of seventy-seven elite women’s riders congregate at the start line; the adrenaline is high as the gun goes off for the race start.

The pace is on, with a succession of riders at the front quick to stretch the field, looking for a breakaway. With so many world class riders in the field, it is a difficult act to pull off, but determination is prominent and within five minutes of the start, there is a break.

The three away are Shannon-Malseed, riding for Holden and winner of this year’s National Road Series, Eloise Vaughan, in the blue CBR kit and Minda Murray, riding for Rush Women’s Team.

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Shannon Malseed leading the break. Photo: Mich Adventures.

These three riders are out front for a total of nine minutes; they take the corners with ease compared to the huge amount of jostling going on in the crowded peloton.  Tension is high and soon enough, after corner one, along the short straight, there is a small crash affecting the outside riders. No one is seriously hurt, but plenty of riders are slowed by the incident.

The whistle sounds for the first of the sprint primes. Everyone is hungry for $500, and the breakaway group are not going to have it easy.  Chloe Hosking accomplishes her first mission by taking out the prime, Matilda Raynolds has to be content with second place and Lauretta Hanson (Rush Women’s Team) races across from the peloton to pick up third.

The peloton is altogether now; everyone is edgy looking for the next move. It comes as a solo attack by Kirsty Deacon (CBR). The race becomes more serious once again as the whistle blows for the second sprint prime. This time Sarah Roy (Orica-Scott, but riding as an individual today) is victorious, with Lauretta Hanson in second and Josie Talbot (Specialised Women’s Racing) third.

Once again, after the prime, the peloton is together. I notice that my daughter, Sarah Gigante, riding as an individual, has mostly been hovering towards the back of the peloton but has moved to fifth wheel. A CBR rider attacks the field. With a 15 meter gap, the peloton chase. As the gap closes and the whistle sounds for another sprint prime, Sarah counter attacks, going into corner one. With steely determination she gives it her best shot, picking up a new personal record on her home course as well as a new maximum heart rate. She comes around corner four with the peloton hot on her heels. With ten meters to the line she still has fresh air behind her, but the head wind is tough and the field is classy. Chloe Hosking pips Sarah at the line with Sarah Roy adding to the close finish.

Once again the peloton are together. There are five laps to go. With a first prize of $3000 cash, everyone is eager. At four laps to go the peloton is surprised by another sprint prime whistle. Go for the sprint prime or go for the end game? There is not much time to think about it and Jemma Eastwood (Knights of Suburbia) makes the most of any indecision. She is off and racing and easily takes out the sprint prime, ahead of Matilda Raynolds and Sharlotte Lucas (RoxsoltAttaquer).

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Jemma Eastwood taking the final prime. Photo (& feature photo): Ernesto Arriagada

The pace is red hot and the winners of the sprint prime are once again absorbed by the peloton. Coming into the back straight after the bell has sounded at one lap to go, everyone is stretched out in single file. The front straight appears much longer than usual due to the strong head wind. All eyes are glued to the finish line, as Ashlee Ankudinoff (Specialised) shows her class by winning the sprint and the crit against the formidable Chloe Hosking and Kimberley Wells (Holden Women’s Racing.)

Congratulations to all the riders who took part in this challenging race. Thank you to Shimano for sponsoring this great series, KOM Financial Advice for supporting the Elite Women’s Race, as well as St Kilda Cycling Club for hosting a great event.

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Ashlee Ankudinoff wins the 2017 KOM Financial Advice Supercrit. Photo: Mich Adventures

 

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2017 Stan Siejka Classic

And the sixth rider to be called to the line is…”Sarah Gigante!”  It was a special moment to cherish, as Sarah was invited to the line for the first time ever in her racing career! Alongside her were some very well respected riders including Sharlotte Lucas, Macey Stewart,  Peta Mullens, Anya Louw (fellow U19!), Lucy Bechtel and Josie Talbot.

But very quickly, it was business as normal. Well, not quite normal…it was Sarah’s favourite criterium, the Stan Siejka Classic, held on a sunny Launceston afternoon in mid-November. The criterium course winds around City Park in the heart of Launceston and boasts a significant hill with an incline of sixteen percent at its steepest. The hill is followed by a rapid U-turn, fondly nicknamed “the peanut”, and the finish line follows about 150 meters after this technical turn.

The start gun sounded and the pace was immediately high. The attacks were fast and furious. It was amazing to watch! Riders were breaking away, being caught and breaking away again all within the space of a few minutes. After ten minutes, the whistle blew for the first intermediate sprint. This prime was taken out by Macey Stewart (TIS) with Lauretta Hanson (Rush) second and Sarah in third place. Shortly after, due to a slip of the wheel at the high pace, there was a small fall at the peanut.  Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, and one lap later they all returned to the peloton to continue on with their race.

The hill, the pace and the attacks were all taking a toll on the peloton, with the lead group having reduced to just twelve riders.  At twenty minutes into the crit, the whistle sounded for the second intermediate sprint, and this time Sarah picked up the full points, with Macey Stewart second and Sharlotte Lucas (Roxsolt Attaquer) third!

Soon after, a breakaway of four formed. Included in the breakaway were Macey Stewart, Josie Talbot (Specialized), Sharlotte Lucas and Matilda Raynolds (Rush). All four major teams were represented so the peloton slowed, with no incentive to chase. The split time between the breakaway and the peloton quickly zoomed out, and although Sarah tried to chase back on, she had no team mates and no riders willing to work with her.

With the criterium nearing its finish, all eyes were on the four riders in the breakaway. It was impossible to tell who had the legs for the final ascent of the Lawrence Street hill, with the number of poker faces high. Coming home in fourth position was Raynolds, third place went to Talbot, Stewart placed second and Sharlotte Lucas showed her class by taking out line honours (as well as $3000!)

Congratulations to every single one of the twenty-two riders who took part in this  very special race! And many thanks to the organisers  and volunteers of the Stan Siejka Criterium 2017, for once again putting on a magnificent show for us all to enjoy!

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The podium for the 2017 Stan Siejka Classic. Photo (& Featured Image): Cyclist Magazine Australia

Junior 19 National Road Championships

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Sprinting for the line! Photo: Stephen Harman

2017 Mt Baw Baw Classic

It was a week of perfect autumn weather. Gorgeous sun-bathed days and calm winds made for perfect riding conditions.  But it was also a week where I frequented the Bureau of Meteorology site on numerous occasions. Each time the report was the same: Sunday,  Mt Baw Baw, cold, rain, sleet and snow above 1200 meters.  Thunderstorms and weather warnings in place. I kept wishing for the change in weather conditions to pass early or arrive late but the Sunday forecast, no matter how often I looked at it, remained the same.

I frequented my local bike shop and stocked up on some wet weather gear for Sarah.  An under helmet beanie, a windproof head band, glove liners (I did not even know these existed!) and a semi-clear rain jacket for over her jersey. Knowing Sarah’s usual jersey-and-knicks-does-the-trick mindset, I was pretty sure she would not wear any of it, but I felt it was important to be over-prepared rather than under-prepared.

The day started early with a drive from our home to the country town of Warrugal. We arrived just in time for registration and jumped out of the car alongside a fellow club member, Craig, who proceeded to give Sarah a run-down of the event. The words replayed in my mind.. three tricky descents…you can go 100km/hr…the road will be wet..there will be leaves…the leaves will be slippery….Vespers Hill will be hard…there will definitely be snow..you will be exhausted by the time you hit the mountain..split the mountain into three stages..the middle stage has orange posts..there are twenty orange posts..count them..post letters if you need..put your brain into neutral..just get up the beast!

At the start line, the commissaire’s words were a little unusual. “We are not yet sure where the race will end due to the severe weather.  Maybe at the top of Baw Baw or maybe earlier! We will let you know as the race progresses.”

My son Scott had decided to come with us, and as we drove off to the feed station at Noojee, the radio station announced that there were severe weather warnings in place for the whole of Victoria. All Victorians were recommended to stay inside for the afternoon!

At Noojee, which was about 50km into the race, we watched each of the groups come through. Mens A, B and C had splintered into many groups, with large time differences within grades. Then Masters B came through, which had started after Women’s A.  Finally we saw the lead car from Women’s A. Both Scott and I grinned from one ear to the other as we spotted Sarah’s green helmet and socks come through behind the lead car, with no one else in sight! To my knowledge, Sarah’s pre-race plan did not include a solo breakaway, but she looked strong and appeared to be managing the cold and wet with aplomb.

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Sarah on the attack!

After watching the peloton come through some two minutes later, it was back into a long line of cars for us, all making our way towards Baw Baw. Slowly, some of the Women’s A riders began to drop off as we reached Vespers Hill. Nine hundred meters into the eight percent, four kilometer climb, Sarah was caught by the leading group of five riders, which included Lisen Hockings, Kate Perry, Justine Barrow, Shannon Malseed and Jemma Eastwood. With Lisen, the 2017 Oceania Road Race Champion, driving the pace at the front, Sarah, and soon after, Jemma, dropped off as the other four riders soon raced out of sight. Sarah was solo, but as riders began to catch her, she was about half way through the field, with riders strung out both in front and behind her.  Finally there was a small downhill and Sarah and one other managed to speed past the convoy of cars and join a group of three who then rode together towards Tanjil Bren, at the base of Baw Baw.

Occasionally, when the roads were less windy, we caught sight of two Women’s A riders just ahead.  Kirsty Deacon, who was riding in Sarah’s group of five, saw them too and determinedly set off to catch them; she disappeared out the front and our admiration for all these riders, braving both the weather and the aggressive race, went up a notch (if that was possible.)

After crossing Big Tree Creek, it was on to meet the beast itself.  Sarah’s group quickly splintered and soloed their way up the mountain, with Sarah at the back.  A Leongatha masters rider was rocking dangerously as both he and Sarah wrestled for both road and mountain.  Dangerously close, I thought they would knock each other out, and we held our breath as the Leongatha rider finally wriggled ahead. About one third of the way up one of the girls in front of Sarah popped and began posting letters both right and left of the road in an effort not to dismount.

Our in-car applause and esteem for all riders continued to mount as the rain turned to sleet.  The gradient was horrendous and the weather was a superb match. I was a little relieved when the sleet turned to snow. Any improvement in the conditions was better than none. In the last one kilometer Sarah pulled back one other rider from her group to pass through the finish line in ninth position and twenty-two minutes behind the race winner, Lisen Hocking, from Holden Cycling.  Lisen had broken away up the final climb and soloed to a comfortable victory, 49 seconds ahead of second place, Justine Barrow from Rush Women’s Team. Shannon Malseed, also from Holden, took third place honours a further minute back.

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Race winner Lisen Hockings. Photo: David Randall Photography

Congratulations to every rider who competed in the Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort Classic Race.  You are all champions!

Women’s A

1. 90 Lisen HOCKINGS (St Kilda Cycling Club) 4h14:40

2. 86 Justine BARROW (Coburg Cycling Club) +49

3. 91 Shannon MALSEED (Portland Cycling Club) +1:49

Women’s B

1. 153 Julie NIXON (Albury Wodonga Panthers Cycling Club) 4h52:38

2. 155 Jarmila TYRRIL (Alpine Cycling Club) +3:01

3. 154 Madison PELZER (St Kilda Cycling Club) +11:45

Women’s C

1. 262 Michelle SCURR (Brunswick Cycling Club) 5h29:17

2. 261 Jenny GRIFFITHS (Alpine Cycling Club) +1:17

For full race results, please click here.

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It began to snow as the women hit the top of the mountain! Photo: Ernesto Arriagada.

Launceston Cycling Classic 2016

It was Sarah’s first senior event! The field looked strong and exciting! There was the Netherland’s Annamiek van Vleuten riding for Orica AIS and there was Italy’s Valentina Scandolara, riding for Roxsolt Attaquer. Kimberley Wells, who had won the Australian National Criterium Champion on two occasions, looked to be a strong contender, as did Katrin Garfoot, Australia’s 2016 National Time Trial winner and team mate for Annamiek in Orica AIS.

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Annemiek van Vleuten recovered quickly from her crash at the Rio Olympics to take out the 2016 Longford Kermesse. Photo: MLH Photography

Saturday’s race was a kermesse around the small town of Longford, about 25km south of Launceston. The pace was red hot from the moment the first cyclist clipped in! A breakaway of five established quickly. It included Katrin Garfoot and Valentina Scandolara. After about three laps of the circuit, they all sat up and waited for the peloton to catch. Shortly after, another breakaway of five formed. Once again it included Katrin and Valentina, but this time Katrin’s team mate, Annamiek van Vleuten, was included. Local NSW talent, Nicola McDonald, also made it into the break.

Kimberley Wells did a lot of work at the front of the peloton, chasing down the breakaway. Finally, after twenty minutes, she succeeded. With just five minutes remaining, Katrin Garfoot took off alone. Her team mate, Annamiek, was at the front of the peloton, controlling the pace. But the other riders had different ideas and coming into the finish line with one lap to go, everyone was together once more.

As the bell rang, it was Annamiek van Vleuten’s turn to rev it up. She took off like a bat out of hell to pick up first place (and five hundred dollars cash), while everyone else sprinted for second place. Valentina managed to win the peloton sprint and second place, while Kimberly Wells picked up third. Sarah pulled out all stops to make up places and came home in tenth position, beating some fine talent too!

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The peloton fought it out after a fast race. Photo: MLH Photography

Sunday’s race was the Stan Siejka Criterium, around the City Park in the heart of Launceston. A huge crowd gathered, looking for both shade and a decent view, on one of the city’s first hot summer days. The eastern side of the criterium circuit boasted a hill which maxed out at a twenty-one percent gradient!

After the excitement of the Longford Kermesse, expectations were high. However, this criterium was in complete contrast to the kermesse of the day before. Katrin Garfoot of Orica AIS time trialled out front with many of the other Orica AIS riders controlling the peloton. As the race began, so it ended, with Katrin taking a comfortable win. Rebecca Wiasak and Alex Manly picked up second and third places respectively, while young Madeleine Fasnacht was the first Tasmanian home in seventh place. The $5000 prize for first place and the dominance of the Orica AIS team were sure to have affected the race strategy!

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Katrin Garfoot’s solo attack was very impressive to watch. Above and feature photos: Scott Gelston

Sarah had an exciting first lap and was leading the peloton at the top of the hill but her race became unstuck when she could not access her big chainring for the descent! Oh well, there are only twelve months until the next Stan Siejka Classic! Congratulations to all the girls, both on and off the podium! It was a great weekend!

National Junior Road Cycling Championships, 2016

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!

 

Eildon Junior Tour, 2016

The school holidays finished with a bang at Eildon, where Blackburn Cycling Club held the last of the Victorian Junior Road tours, prior to States in August. It was the end of an era, with Sarah attending her thirty-first and final junior tour! Along the way we have made so many friends, had so much fun and loved each and every tour! Many thanks to the wonderful volunteers at Ararat, Bendigo, Blackburn and Shepparton clubs, as well as our fantastic Northern Combine with its three day junior tour, and the interstate clubs of Central Districts (SA), Wagga (NSW) and our beloved Canberra!

The Eildon tour saw Sarah pick up a win in the Time Trial, placing her 15 seconds ahead of the lovely Jemma, who had no trouble picking up the lost time while heading up the dam wall in Race One and over Skyline in Race Two. Sarah finished the tour in second place, with Jemma first. Starting as a bottom age Under 13, Sarah has finished this tour in second place five times! That elusive first place will have to wait until seniors!

Thank you to Peter and Helen, who shared their beautiful home with us for the weekend!

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Canberra Junior & Womens Tour, 2016

Lights, Canberra, Action! The Canberra Junior Tour is one of the best junior tours in the country, and, as always, we had a fabulous time! With 27 entries in the Under 17 women’s category, including seven entries from New Zealand and a depth of field arriving from all the eastern states, it was impossible to pre-select who the favourites might be.
The first event was the race of truth, the time trial. Riders departed every 30 seconds for fifteen kilometers of maximum effort. Sarah‘s departure time was early in the event. She overtook a NSW friend early and then caught some time on a fellow Victorian, but it was impossible to judge how well she went compared to others who departed later. So we were very happy when the results came out with Sarah in third place, behind Claire from Queensland and a young Kiwi girl, Mckenzie.

The afternoon road race was 38 km long. Uliara Crossing involves a long, steep descent with an acute turn at the bottom onto a narrow dilapidated bridge. Dodgy in the best of conditions, everyone aims to be first in the pack, to avoid being caught up in another rider’s errors. But being first involves going fast, and that alone can bring a rider down. All the girls made it through safely, to start the huge ascent for the first Queen of the Mountain. QOM honours went to Claire, followed by a Kiwi rider. Then there was fresh air to a group of four, followed by Sarah in a group of five. Eventually these three groups rejoined, but split again at the next QOM on the return journey, this time with Claire emerging solo at the top of the long, steep hill. Claire worked alone to return victorious to the finish line, with a group of four Kiwis vying for second place, followed by Sarah in the third bunch, in eighth position.

At the end of Stage 2 Sarah was sitting fifth overall, only 20 seconds out from second overall, with Claire having over 50 seconds on the field.

Stage 3 on the Sunday involved a 52 km road race, through Uliara Crossing and beyond. Unlike Saturday, the weather was cold and wet. It was Canberra’s first rain in two months and the roads were slippery. Not good. One girl went down at the Crossing, and this time I was not in the lead car, but waiting, worried, (I knew there had been a crash) back at the stadium finish. After the first QOM, the Kiwis played their trump card and formed a wall across the road. They waited for Mckenzie, who had dropped off on the hill, to catch, allowed her through the wall, and then the peloton, including the yellow jersey holder, Claire,watched as Mckenzie and the lead car disappeared out of sight together. It was really difficult to get through the wall, but eventually Claire managed to get through. Sarah encouraged Claire to chase, as her yellow jersey was at risk, but every time Claire had a go, she was irritated by the NZ riders sitting on her wheel, and her chase would halt. Sarah’s goal was to hang on at every hill, and although she did drop off, she always managed to chase back on. Even when Sarah’s chain fell off and became jammed, with help required from a follow car driver, she again managed to chase back on.

Back at the stadium I watched Mckenzie come in two minutes ahead of the field. I was very relieved to see Sarah’s orange helmet appear over the rise at the top of the crit course. She was sitting eighth in an eight rider sprint for second place. Sarah’s friend, Alana, took out sprint honours and second place, with Sarah hot on her heels, contesting third, but missing it by a tyre width and picking up fourth place. A great effort!

The final stage was the Criterium. Wet. cold and slippery. I simply wanted all the girls upright! The commentator did not help, with Collarbone Corner brought to our attention each lap. After 25 minutes, there were two laps to go and Sarah was sitting at the back of the large field. A dangerous place to be..I had memories of her crashing at Road Nationals. Move forward I urged…Sarah never hears me, but she did exactly that, and somehow, with half a lap to go, she was leading the field. The leader of the field rarely wins the Crit, but, hey, it is the safest place, and exciting to watch as well! The girls came at her and she managed another photo finish for third place, but once again had to settle on fourth. A grand effort, and all riders upright!

The overall tour placings put Mckenzie first, followed by Claire, then another two Kiwi girls and Sarah in fifth place. Many thanks to Peter Blackshaw, who sponsor this great tour, and all the Canberra volunteers, who make this event such a racing highlight.

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National Junior Mountain Climbing Championships, 2016

Three days of sunshine in the Victorian Alps – magic!

Swimming under the stars, in the Ovens River, with a platypus for company…okay, it was a little cold – but magic!

Catching up with interstate friends – magic!

And then there was the magic that is the Alpe d’Buffalo!

Saturday was the time trial. The Under 17 girls were travelling 9.5 kilometers, including 428 meters of altitude, with each rider sent one minute apart. The National Mountain Climbing Time Trial honours went to our Tasmanian friend Anya, with an impressive time of 22 and a half minutes. In second place was Jemma, who, I believe, was born with hills in her legs…and hot on Jemma’s heels, 1.1 seconds behind, was Sarah!

Sunday was the road race. At 8am the mountain air was fresh, but with a 1300m climb from the bottom of Buffalo, all jackets were left in my lead car, and it was race on! The first few kilometers were almost uneventful, with a slow steady climb and only one rider falling away from the group. But as the race went up the mountain, the pace continually picked up and soon riders were being dropped off the back at a regular rate. With about 15 km to go the front group had been reduced to five riders, Anya, Jemma, Sarah and two Queenslanders. Jemma then put in an attack and it was Jemma and Sarah out front. Three minutes into the attack the commissaires car rolls up alongside Sarah and Jemma, and states, “You have 40 seconds!” “What?” say the girls, in disbelief. But Sarah says Jemma attacked hard..and chatted while she was doing it! Sarah managed to hang with Jemma for another four kilometers or so and then it was Sarah’s turn to be left behind. Jemma methodically made her way to the finish line, without a backwards glance, along the way overtaking many of the Under 15 boys, who started earlier. So the final result was Jemma in one hour 15 minutes, Sarah in second place, four minutes 56 seconds behind, and Anya, just beating Sophie to the line, and eight and a half minutes behind Jemma.

Congratulations to all the girls…special mention to Edie who was not well but still managed to complete both the time trial and road race.

Many thanks to the Alpine Cycling Club for once again hosting such a fabulous event. Sarah has attended for the past four years and it has always been the highlight of our cycling year. We were very sad to hear that Buffalo will not be home to the Junior Mountain Climbing Champs in 2017. Hopefully, it will return to Buffalo in the not too distant future.

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!