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The Emma James Diary 2003

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Emma and the Cannibal
Photo: © CN/Anthony Tan

Welcome to one of Cyclingnews' up-and-coming female talents, Australian Emma James. Emma's enjoying her second year as a scholarship holder with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) road cycling team, based in Tuscany, Italy. She's a gutsy rider who's decided that she'd rather be testing the waters of professional cycling than testing the salinity of the Sydney's waterways as an environmental scientist - which used to be her previous occupation before Emma decided to take the plunge.

Cooma Snowy Women's Cycle Classic

A classic crosswind

The first ever Cooma Snowy Women's Cycle Classic consisted of a 107km road stage from Cooma to Dalgety and back on dead roads and howling winds. We started with about 50 riders, including a few riders from the German Nürnberger team and the US National T-mobile team which flew in yesterday.

After 25km, attacks were launched on a fairly flat, fast section of the course and in a countermove, a group of four riders managed to get a gap on the main field. The four riders were a good, strong combination with the main teams represented: Alison Wright and Oenone Wood (Cooma Cycles), Kimberly Bruckner (T-Mobile) and Amy Safe (AIS-Trek).

There was some interest in chasing, but getting across without the whole bunch was the key. As the chasing group slowed after an attack, I made a move from the back of the field and started to bridge the gap. I was confident of getting across quickly, but trying not to bury myself as the terrain to come included some tough climbs.

Just as I neared the leading bunch, the reaction came from the chase group on a downhill section with Nürnberger pulling the bunch back to me - but surprisingly no counter move was made to get to the leading four riders just ahead. There was a steep descent shortly after and the bunch was moving well; I was hoping that on the tough climbs to come the field would split and we would catch the leading riders to still be in contention for the race.

However, the chance of bridging the gap on your own seemed unlikely as the gap increased. The bunch slowed and the road was only gently undulating - not enough to really split the chasing group - so the gap to the leading four riders blew out to over three minutes.

At the turn around I was still hopeful that a strong chase group could pull back the riders who had been on their own since the 25km mark. I attacked a couple of times and with four or five riders we built a decent gap. We swapped off, but it wasn't hard enough to stay away. What was left of the rest of the field (about 20 riders) clawed their way back and once again we had a bunch unwilling to even roll through with the race very much up the road. The time gap was now over four minutes.

With about 30km to go, five of us rode clear. It was much better to be racing home hard but every glimpse of the road ahead still left us with no view of the four leading riders: we had left our chase too late. With 10km to go we eased up. Margaret Hemsley attacked our little group on the last climb. Olivia went to cover the move with Emily Williams, with Zoe Southwell and myself not far behind. Margaret had a good gap by the crest of the climb and held it down the descent and the last couple of kilometres into the finish for fifth. Emily finished just ahead of Olivia in a short sprint, and I finished eighth.

Amy had a great day: she claimed one of the mountain sprints and found riding in the break comfortable despite the tough conditions. Kimberly made a move with a few kilometres to go, but could not lose the others. Launching herself into the last corner with only 200m to go, Alison won the sprint, with Amy second and Oenone third.

Results & report from the 1st Cooma Snowy Women's Cycle Classic