Junior 19 National Road Championships

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.

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.

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.

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

J11, J13, J15, J17… NRS?!

Some warned me it would be fast, others warned me there would be a lot of yelling, but no one warned me how FUN it would be! My first senior road tour was a blast!

The tour was located in East Gippsland, and although I’ve heard some bad weather stories over the past few years, this time, the weather was perfect! Funnily enough, the last time I visited this part of Victoria was ten years ago, also for a cycling event – the Great Victorian Bike Ride back when I was six!

I lined up for my time trial at 8:25am, well warmed up and very excited. Apart from the fancy start ramp, lack of TT bars, and the disc wheels wherever I looked, it almost seemed like just another junior tour! The course was great – lumpy but still fast. I gave it my all to finish 29th out of 40 riders, 72 seconds off the winner and just 20 seconds outside the top 15! I was happy to achieve my original goal of not finishing in the bottom 5, and to have a benchmark to strive for during the rest of the tour.

Saturday’s 8km time trial. Photo: Phoenix Cycling Collective

It all became a bit more REAL when I lined up for the 72 kilometre road race a few hours later. It was awesome to be part of such a great field, with riders coming from all across Australia! But I knew this stage was going to be a tough one, as it was my first ride, let alone race, over 60 kilometres since I had glandular fever last month. It was also a little scary being the only Under 19 rider! I wasn’t racing any of my usual competitors, and I just had to hope muscle memory and mental toughness would kick in for the last part of the race!

We started out on a long downhill, the field spread out wide across the whole road. This race was already very different to any I had done before, with riders bringing their teammates to the front and attacks appearing as soon as we left the neutral zone! Apart from the impressive breakaway duo of Taryn Heather (Specialized Women’s Racing) and Jade Colligan (Nowra Velo), the bunch stayed relatively calm and remained together. The real challenge came when we left the 18 kilometre circuit and headed home, via the 900 metre Stones Hill. At an average gradient of eight percent, the hill did its job in sorting out who had legs left and who didn’t. Over the top emerged five hillclimbers, led by Lucy Kennedy of the High5 Dream Team. I managed to stick with the second group of six riders, which was a nice surprise! We were soon caught by another group and together, we worked hard to catch the girls in front.

The finish came after a long uphill drag followed by a left-hand turn into a sharp climb. We had caught the leaders and I was feeling surprisingly good as the ‘3km to go’ sign came into view. I was just wondering how to move up to the front and into a good position for the sprint when another individual rider, Margeaux Thompson, kindly offered to show me the ropes and drag me up! It turned out to be great timing – as soon as we reached the front, there was an attack! I managed to follow it, and although we were swallowed up soon after, it felt awesome to be off the front with only 1.5 kilometres to go! Unfortunately, my race plan came crashing down when I resumed my position in the pack. A touch of wheels directly in front of me meant that I had nowhere to go, and so I hit the crashed bike and flipped over my handlebars. This was the same way in which I separated my shoulder two months ago, so as I was ‘mid-flight’, I was definitely expecting the worst! Luckily, my physio exercises must have paid off, since I only ended up with a few bruises and could finish the race, claiming bunch time. The sprint continued without me, and as I pedalled up the road, I saw the dominant Holden Women’s Cycling’s Shannon Malseed take out the sprint ahead of Ruth Corset (Rush Women’s Cycling) and Jessica Pratt (High5 Dream Team).

Today, I was feeling more confident. I had stayed with the bunch the day before and surprisingly, the crash actually helped me to overcome my nerves by giving me my sense of immunity back! Not every time you crash do you break something, so it was onto my next goal – attack!

The start of the road race. Photo: Phoenix Cycling Collective

I attacked three times, but unfortunately I only had breakaway companions once, and when I did, we were chased down quickly. After 46 kilometres, on the third and final lap, the pace increased and the tempo stayed high all the way up until the sharp final pinch. High5 Dream Team took out the 1-2, with Sam de Riter edging out her teammate Lucy Kennedy, followed by Rush rider Ruth Corset. I followed through with the remainder of the bunch, spent but upright!

It turns out that the key to NRS General Classification success is to be great at time trials, as there are no time bonuses at stake. Louisa Lobigs held onto her 2 second lead from Stage 1 to win the tour, over teammate Shannon Malseed. Wonder-Mum Ruth Corset was hot on their heels – she’ll be one to look out for come the next round of the NRS! Great job to everyone who raced this weekend, and a big thank you to my selfless mum and brother for all of the support, as well as to the commissaires and volunteers (especially First Aid!) You were all awesome! Next up, Tour of Mansfield and the famous Mt Buller climb!

View the full results here.

– Sarah Gigante

The leaders of the NRS after Round 1. Photo and feature image: Ernesto Arriagada

Cycling Australia Road National Championships

On a hot day in Buninyong, 65 U23 and Elite women lined up to race the Cycling Australia National Road Championships.

An early break of three formed including Shara Gillow, Ellen Skerritt and Jenelle Crooks, with Gillow and Skerritt doing the bulk of the work while Crooks played the role of policewoman for Orica-Scott.

On the 6th lap, a chase group of five caught the three leaders, with break of the day forming from Orica-Scott duo Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt, with Queensland’s Lucy Kennedy in hot pursuit.


Meanwhile, the pace, temperature and strong crosswinds whittled down the U23 category to just four riders, with Alex Manly, Jaime Gunning, Ella Scanlan Bloor and Emily Parkes all together in the peloton.

With one lap to go, the Orica-Scott duo were left to fight it out amongst themselves for the gold, while Kennedy, less than a minute behind, turned herself inside out to stay ahead of the chase group led by Carlee Taylor and Jenelle Crooks. Race favourite Peta Mullens was caught out early and led home the peloton, 6 minutes behind the leaders.

Coming into the final 500m, time trial champion Garfoot kicked early with defending champion Spratt attempting to come around, but unable to overcome her strong teammate. Kennedy bravely hung on to her gap to take home the bronze medal.

In the U23 race, Manly sprinted alongside her Orica-Scott teammates to pick up the gold medal, with Gunning and Parkes closing out the top three in the bunch sprint.

Congratulations to Orica-Scott for completing the double double – both Katrin Garfoot and Alex Manly won both the time trial and road race! The team also won the sprint classification with Amanda Spratt on 5 points. The mountain classification was won by Queensland’s Shara Gillow.

Well done to everyone who pinned on a number, especially the 38 women who finished in gruelling conditions!


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.

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!

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!

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!

VIC Omnium Champs: Australian First Trial of New UCI Rules

On the 13th of October, the UCI announced new changes to the Track Omnium, designed to make the race more spectator friendly. Today’s Victorian Omnium Championship, held at DISC in Melbourne, Australia, was the first women’s Omnium in the world to follow the new rules (after the first men’s event at the European Championships last night). The new format was well-received by riders, officials and audience members alike.

What is an Omnium?

The word omnium means ‘of all’ in Latin, which signifies the intent of the race – to find the best all-round cyclist. The Omnium has been contested at the World Championships since 2007 and replaced the Points Race, Individual Pursuit and Madison at the Olympic Games in 2012. The Omnium is a series of races held in succession, with points awarded based on the position of riders in each race (recently with the exception of the points race, which adds points directly to a rider’s total.)

What are the new changes?

Up until this year, the Omnium has consisted of the following six races:

  • Scratch Race
  • Individual Pursuit
  • Elimination Race
  • Time Trial
  • Flying Lap
  • Points Race

The Omnium in its previous form was generally contested over a number of days as the three timed events are rather time-consuming. The new format, which is designed to run on a single day, consists of the following races:

  • Scratch Race
  • Tempo Ronde
  • Elimination Race
  • Points Race

Points are awarded to riders as follows: 1st place receives 40 points, 2nd receives 38, 3rd receives 36 and so on down to 20th place. Points accumulated in the points race, as before, are added directly to a rider’s total, but with an added twist: the points in the last sprint are doubled (from the usual 5-3-2-1 to 10-6-4-2) to ensure that the race hangs in the balance until the very end.

What is a Tempo Ronde?

This question has been on everyone’s minds since the changes were announced. The Tempo Ronde has never before been a part of any championship event, nor is it a familiar name in club track racing.

The Tempo Ronde is a massed start race designed to encourage attacking riding and exciting racing. After four free laps, one single point is awarded to the winner of every lap. No points are awarded for second, nor are extra points awarded for the final sprint. Should a rider take a lap on the field, he or she receives four points bonus.

How did it go?

Predictably, the Tempo Ronde was the most interesting addition to the format. The pace was generally high in all categories, breakaways were frequent, both by individual riders and by small groups who cooperated to share the points accumulated in their break.

The capacity to complete the Omnium in a single day added another dimension to the race. In the previous format, riders had a significant rest period between the more draining of the events, which were interspaced by the shorter timed events. As such, riders were generally reasonably fresh for the Points Race, which is the last race on the program and often the most decisive. In the new format, however, any decision to work too hard in the earlier races could cause riders to suffer in the points race.

Finally, the doubled points in the final sprint added an extra element of suspense – in none of the seven categories was the leading rider secure in their place until after the final sprint, keeping the audience and riders on the edge of their seats until the very end. We saw this in the Open Women’s division with only three points between first and second overall.

Seda Camgoz Posselt, the 2014 Victorian Omnium Champion, reflected on the differences between the new and old formats. “The new format Omnium racing is a little more strategically involved and very exciting! I do love the Individual Pursuit – individual events where you put yourself into a pure pain-zone work well for me. So in this aspect the previous format suited me a lot better, but I think the new format is more interesting for both spectators and participants.”

Sarah Gigante (L) and Alice Culling (R) in the final sprint of the Open Women’s Points Race. Photo: Jun Aishima

Championship Results

Congratulations to all of the riders who competed in the new format Omnium. We hope you enjoyed racing it as much as we enjoyed watching it!

Elite Women

  1. Monica Kelly (Horsham Cycling Club)
  2. Seda Camgoz Posselt (Brunswick Cycling Club)

Elite Men

  1. Kelland O’Brian (St Kilda Cycling Club)
  2. Matthew Ross (Carnegie Caulfield Cycling Club)
  3. Alex Morgan (Blackburn Cycling Club)

Junior 19 Women

  1. Sarah Gigante (Brunswick Cycling Club)
  2. Alice Culling (Ararat Cycling Club)
  3. Georgia O’Rouke (Carnegie-Caulfield Cycling Club)

Junior 19 Men

  1. Godfrey Slattery (Brunswick Cycling Club)
  2. Isaac Buckell (Bendigo Cycling Club)
  3. Connor Sens (Bendigo Cycling Club)

Masters Women

  1. Emma Jackson (Castlemaine Cycling Club)
  2. Rebecca Williamson (Brunswick Cycling Club)
  3. Samantha Sutton (Brunswick Cycling Club)

Masters 1-4 Men

  1. Garth Hircoe (Preston Cycling Club)
  2. Iain Clarke (Brunswick Cycling Club)
  3. Stan Thomas (Shepparton Cycling Club)

Masters 5+ Men

  1. Richard Hood (Brunswick Cycling Club)
  2. Greg Walker (Carnegie-Caulfield Cycling Club)
  3. Piers Fraser (Australian Defence Force Cycling Club)
Photo: Jun Aishima

Women’s Warrnie Winner Tessa Fabry: ‘You can race 277km’

The Melbourne to Warrnambool is more than just a race. It’s a legend. The iconic ‘Warrnie’ began as a handicap in 1895. It was held as a massed start road race in 1996, in 2004 it became the world’s longest road race (at 299km), and to this day it is the world’s second oldest road race.

The Warrnie is no longer the world’s longest road race, but at 277km, it’s not far off. Last year marked yet another milestone for the Warrnie – the inclusion, for the first time, of a women’s category on the start list. This year, on Saturday the 15th of October, twelve brave women lined up in Werribee for the toughest race on the Cycling Australia calendar.

The raced was marred with gale-force winds, crashes and mechanicals and as the NRS men drove the pace on the front, the group began to splinter. The final battle for the Women’s Warrnie was won by Tessa Fabry, a Brunswick Cycling Club member riding for the High5 Dream Team. We caught up with Tessa after the race to ask about the motivation, preparation and determination that led to her impressive victory.

Podium Girls: What motivated you to sign up for the notorious Melbourne to Warrnambool, knowing that you were in for 277km of pain in most likely strong winds?

Tessa Fabry: I only decided to enter about a week and a half before the race – it was a pretty last minute decision. I was a bit hesitant at first as I had not done any specific preparation for such a long race, but it’s something that I’d always wanted to do so I thought why not give it a go!

PG: Coming into the race, you had two strong team mates in Rebecca Wiasak and Kendelle Hodges which put the three of you down as race favourites. How did you adapt when your team mates both succumbed to mechanical failures? What thoughts went through your mind when you realised you were essentially left to your own devices?

TF: With the massed start it was hard to have a clear team plan as we were never going to be in control of what was going to happen during the race. It was mostly going to be a matter of trying to hold on and help each other out where possible. After Bec and Kendelle were forced to abandon the race I guess it was a bit of a “oh great, it’s all on me now” feeling. I guess what kept me motivated during the race was that I had to keep going for the team.

PG: The men and women started together, meaning you could draft off people you weren’t competing against. It’s not often that you have a ‘race within a race’ like this – what effect do you think that had on the competition?

TF: With the massed start it does become somewhat a race of attrition for everyone except the NRS men. This makes the race for everyone else a bit less tactical than a normal race, however racing skills such as good positioning and being able to stay out of the wind as much as possible become even more important.

PG: In the end, it was down to just you and Fiona Yard in contention for the win. What was your strategy to make sure you could clinch the win on a potentially crowded road coming into the finish?

TF: We were in a small bunch that was working well together. Towards the end of the race  I knew my only option was to stay with them and sprint. Had the two of us been on our own, it could have played out quite differently. Luckily, as the group we were in was quite small, it was reasonably easy to position myself to get a clear run to the finish.

PG: We often hear about riders doing ‘Warrnie kms’ – hour after gruelling hour of long endurance rides. Did you feel that you could have prepared better, given that you entered so late and that we’re now already a few weeks into criterium season?

TF: As I decided to enter so close to the event, I had obviously not done anything different in training to what I would normally do. I don’t think my endurance was necessarily a problem and I don’t think you necessarily have to do 7 hour training rides to prepare. That said, I do think I could have benefited from doing some longer, more intense bunch rides just to prepare mentally for basically staring at a wheel in front of me for half the day.

PG: You’re working a few days a week as a cycle courier. Do you think those long days of slow kilometres helped you in the latter stages of the race?

TF: Although it is somewhat lower intensity compared to racing, I do think being used to spending all day out on a bike helped. I found thinking of the race as 8 hours on a bike (which I do all the time) as opposed to 277km (which I never do!) made it a little less daunting.

PG: Would you consider racing the Warrnie again? What advice would you give to other women considering competing next year?

TF: For sure! I would like to see if I could improve how I handle the race, particularly the never-ending crosswinds. I would also like to see the women’s race grow bigger and would love to continue to be part of that. For any women considering joining me, don’t be put off by the distance. You can race 277km, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. 


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!



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.