Graham Dowden reporting live from Sydney.
Conditions for the 1996 Australian National Women's road race were perfect, with bright sunny skies, a temperature in the low 20s and only a light wind blowing into the rider's faces up the long finishing straight.
Lining up for the race were the favorites, according to the program: Kathy Watt, Anna Wilson, Cathy Reardon, Tracey Watson, Elizabeth Tadich, Lyn Nixon, Charlotte White and Kristy Scrimgeour out of a total field of 45. A minutes silence was observed before the start of the race in memory of one of the all time greats of Australian cycling, Sir Hubert Opperman, who died this morning. The races started at 11 o'clock.
The first lap of the 4.4km course passed with the bunch together in 6'30". By the second lap already 9 riders had been dropped 50m. On lap 4 Charlotte White had a brief shot off the front and in the chase the tempo heated up enough to drop no less than 25 riders for good.
At lap 6 thirteen riders driven by the AIS group (Tadich, Wilson, White) again turned up the pace and went off the front. Kathy Watt was cruising at the back of the leading bunch looking like it wasn't so easy. On lap 8 they lapped the last rider, who nevertheless finished the race by herself. By lap 9 the leading bunch had swelled again to a total of 22 with various riders driving to catch them.
The winning move was made on lap 11 at 45km, when Lyn Nixon (WAIS) went off the front to a 200m lead. The pace rose and the chasers were thinned to 15 on lap 9 and only 9 by the next lap. By lap 13 Nixon's lead had risen to 30s and the chasing bunch had thinned to its final size of 8. These riders were Tracey Watson, Elizabeth Tadich, Anna Wilson, Kathy Watt, Cathy Reardon, Lyn Nixon, Charlotte White and Kristy Scrimgeour (all the favorites!) plus Juanita Feldhahn.
At this point it was time to line up at the kiosk for lunch while a few laps passed.
Back again at lap 16, even though driven by the AIS the chasers were unable or not sufficiently organised to catch Lyn Nixon whose lead had now risen to a very healthy 1'09". This situation remained for the next few laps until 19 when the chasers appeared to realise things were looking grim. Kathy Watt put in some effort on the rise past the finishing line and in the process briefly dropped Tracey Watson and Kristy Scrimgeour. Kristy Scrimgeour managed to scramble back by the next lap when the same scene was repeated: Nixon a minute ahead working hard but not about to crack, AIS driving but unable to make any real inroads into her lead.
With only three laps to go the gap was still a clear minute. The drivers appeared to have given up and were urged on by various onlookers. Next lap around Lyn Nixon was set, pushing a steady rhythm on her Spinergy wheeled Giant up the rise with two officials cars and two motorbikes in her train.
It was all over apart from the cheers: Thirty five year old mother of two Lyn Nixon cruised home to the acclaim of the assembled crowd with enough space between her and the chasers to fit several peletons. Her unofficial finishing time was 2h 54' 28" for the 110km course at an average of 37.8km/h. The gallop for second was taken by Kathy Watt on the inside from Anna Wilson, with most of the others nearby.
"All round the course everyone was giving me time gaps, it was really good, they were all giving me encouragement. Thanks to the WA Institute of Sport, Andrew Logan (AIS Women's coach), Kathy (Watt) who gives me lots of inspiration and encouragement, and anyone else who helped me. Andrew told me that I had to do the nationals just so that I could get in the (Olympic) team, so I said all right, I'll try and do well".