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Australian Open Road Championships - CN
Mt Torrens, Australia, January 11-14, 2006
Race 4 - January 13: Elite Women's Road Race, 97.5 km
Bates' glory as Carrigan bridesmaid again
By Les Clarke in Mt Torrens, with additional reporting by Kathie Stove
NSW rider Katherine Bates has put past disappointments behind her to take out the women's national road race championship, held in tough conditions in Mt Torrens today. The 19.5km loop around Mt Torrens, tipped to produce plenty of attacking racing, proved to be tougher than expected, with the field whittled down to about 35 of the original starters by the finish. The race was defined by two major attacks; Jessie Maclean's burst at the beginning of the third 19.5km loop after which she was able to build a lead in excess of 1min 30seconds, and the race-winning break initiated by Amanda Spratt going into the final kilometres of the fourth lap.
Bates quickly followed the move, looking strong and fresh after omitting herself from Wednesday's time trial. Queensland's Sara Carrigan was able to bridge the gap to Bates and Spratt and stay away, helping drive the duo to the line. It was sweet relief for Bates, who will be riding for the powerful Nurnberger women's squad this season with women's world cup champion Oenone Wood, who was instrumental in keeping the bunch at bay to take third herself. With Wood working hard to prevent her teammate's lead being threatened, it came down to a two-up sprint between Bates and Carrigan, the 23-year-old Bates easily prevailing to take a popular win.
How it unfolded
Boasting 56 starters with some of the world's best women cyclists, the field was full of talented riders out to capture a national champion's jersey and a place in the Commonwealth Games squad. Katie Mactier, a late addition to the field, was expected to be amongst the leaders following her strong performance in the Bay Classic earlier this month. She missed Wednesday's time trial, and was coming into race with fresh legs.
An early crash
Favourites for the title such as Oenone Wood, Kate Bates, Olivia Gollan and Rochelle Gilmore would be sure to keep themselves safely in the pack, looking for the opportunity to capitalise on any moves close to the race's end. And it looked like that would be the case, as the opening laps were ridden at a slow pace and any early attacks were kept to a minimum. A crash after about eight kilometre took down eight riders, with Gemma Coyne, Yoko Okuda, Deborah Fagg, Liz Young, Hannah Banks, Louise Kerr, Nicole Magner and Anna Sutton involved. Victorian Deborah Fagg was later taken to hospital with a broken collarbone, but Banks, Kerr, Magner and Sutton were able to continue racing and rejoined the main bunch later in the first lap.
NSW rider Laura Bortolozzi's ride was short-lived; after suffering a mechanical midway through the first lap, she was forced to make her back to the bunch solo, something that proved too difficult, retiring from the race during the next lap. It was then time for Victorian rider Maryam Rogers and Queenslander Kate Mercer to attack, building a 45 second lead by the end of the first lap. Soon after crossing the start/finish line for the first time Mercer sat up, with Claire McLean taking up where Mercer left off, joining Rogers on the climb out of Mt Torrens. McLean was soon absorbed by the bunch when Oenone Wood, in an effort to prevent an early Victorian break, made her way to the front and shut the move down.
One kilometre later the race came together again, Wood having brought Rogers back to the bunch. Kate Mercer then decided it was time to attack again, gaining a 30-second advantage coming into the 10km point of the second lap; but again, it wasn't too long before she was brought back to the bunch. Following the first-lap crash, Yoko Okuda was finding the going difficult, dropping off the back of the bunch at the 24km mark - she was one of many riders who found the increased tempo during the second lap too hard to maintain, with those caught up in the crash yo-yoing off the field and back on again.
Attacks flowing freely
While riders were falling by the wayside, attacks were starting to flow, with a burst just after the feed station halfway through the second lap and another attack as riders headed into the final turn of lap 2. It was time for ACT rider Jessie Maclean to attack going through the start/finish area to begin lap 3, quickly putting a large amount of time into the bunch, who were slow to react. Maclean, who has been riding the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals and the Bay Classic this last month, showed the racing's been of benefit to her form as she strung out the peloton on her way to gaining an advantage of one minute 45 seconds by the 10km point of the third lap.
Maclean continued on her attacking way, gaining a further five seconds before her advantage began to fall late in the third lap, the gusty conditions taking their toll despite the young rider's obvious strength. As the pace lifted in pursuit of Maclean, Victorian Kerryn Charman, feeling the effects of several hard chases back onto the bunch, succumbed to a muscle injury and withdrew. The start/finish area was the place of choice to launch attacks, with Toireasa Gallagher then Hannah Banks launching themselves off the front from that point in an attempt to break up the field. Neither kept the wind in their sails before Jenny Macpherson decided to ride from the field - but Kate Bates vigilantly chased the Victorian down, not giving an inch to one of the race's big hitters.
After about four kilometres of the fourth lap, NSW rider Erin Chamberlen fell, suffering minor cuts and abrasions as a result, and with 12 riders off the back of the bunch, the multiple attacks during the last two laps were starting to take their toll on the field. As Queenslander Emma Mackie attacked, the pace of the peloton was raised even further, stringing the peloton out and spitting Alexis Rhodes from the field. After her win on stage three of the Bay Classic, Rhodes found the extra distance a tough and it most observers would agree it was a miracle she was lining up for the Australian championship at all.
The decisive move
With the pace see-sawing and the attacks coming, 19-year-old Amanda Spratt flew the coop - again in the start/finish area - quickly gaining time on the field in an attempt to break it up. Sensing her time had arrived, Kate Bates quickly made up the distance to the former junior points race world champion to lead by 80 metres. Sara Carrigan, looking for the win after her second place in Wednesday's time trial, saw the quality of the break and decided she wanted in on the move. As Carrigan bridged solo, Spratt fell off, her objective of setting up the break achieved.
It was then time for Carrigan and Bates to ride away from the peloton, working well to gain 32 seconds as they came to the 80km point of the race. The peloton, controlled by Bates' new teammate Wood and former Nurnberger rider Olivia Gollan, was slow to react to the combined efforts of Bates and Carrigan, and the duo quickly established a gap of one minute 15 seconds. Spratt dropped away from the pair, stuck between them and the bunch until she dropped back behind the bunch, her work done in what was a gutsy performance.
Bates and Carrigan continued to pull away from the field, but after their advantage peaked at one minute 30 seconds on the back section of the last lap, the games began. The two women watched each other leading up to the finale, their lead beginning to tumble; and even as the peloton came into sight of the leading duo, there wasn't the urgency needed to steal a win from within the bunch. Coming into the last corner, catching Bates and Carrigan was only a matter of metres away, but it wasn't to be - the bunch lacked urgency and Bates was able to take the national championship in a simple two-up sprint.
Following the win, Bates admitted it was her biggest victory ever. "This is the best thing I have ever done - there is absolutely no question. To be a national champion is always something special, to take the jersey is special," she said. Bates, known for her exploits on the track, proved today she was capable of great things on the road. "I know what I am capable of on the track so I ride with confidence," she said, before adding, "But on the road I am only just beginning to know what I am capable of and I can only hope that today is just the start of what can be a big year for me."
Paying tribute to her family, Bates said, "I'm sorry I've been such a grumpy bitch for the last few days," before saying that, "Nattie [Bates' sister, Natalie] did so well in the time trial the other day and I was just so proud of her. She was riding amazingly today, she actually had a very good race. And I got excited for that and I think that feeling helps you a little bit. We could both make the games."
Having worked hard in the break, it looked like Bates' parade could be rained on by the peloton, but luckily for her that didn't happen. "Sara's so strong but I got away from her with 200 metres to go," said Bates. "She said 'you'll beat me in the sprint' but I said I'm not really confident - just work with me," she continued. "I know I could outsprint her but I was getting pretty fatigued - I'm just glad that she was more fatigued than I was. The commissaires car came past and said, 'they're in sight' and I thought that would really be crap if they caught us with 500 metres to go or something, but I worked to the end and luckily I had the legs," she said.
Carrigan, second in Wednesday's time trial and second again today, was visibly disappointed with the result, saying, "Because she hadn't done anything all day she was really strong and I was feeling strong then as well. But bridging across did take a fair bit out of me." It was a great effort to stay away in the break, and Carrigan knew it. "We worked really well together and I think that's why we pulled out a minute and a half," she said. "They came home really fast but we timed it to perfection."
She wasn't giving anything away about what was said during the closing stages of the race, but did pay tribute to the strength of Bates over the final lap. "I started to cramp a bit and tried to attack her out the back a bit, but I had nothing. she was too strong in the end - I had no chance. I'm happy for Kate."
Following her third place finish, Bates' Nurnberger teammate Oenone Wood was just happy to have the national champion's jersey in the Nurnberger stable. "We just tried to do what Queensland did to us last year - this year we got our own back," she said, before adding, "I'm very satisified with third place - our team's riding with the national jersey this year; our director said to us that Kates' probably going to be working for me this year, so it's time to do something for her. Kate's had a fantastic day today; she went out there, stayed strong and managed to win the sprint. I think that's indicative of good things to come this season."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mark Gunter/www.pbase.com/gunterphotograph
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
1 Katherine Bates (NSW) 2.46.45 (35.08 km/h) 2 Sara Carrigan (Qld) 0.01 3 Oenone Wood (ACT) 0.12 4 Katie Mactier (Vic) 5 Bridget Evans (Qld) 6 Olivia Gollan (NSW) 7 Jocelyn Loane (Qld) 8 Kathryn Watt (Vic) 9 Hayley Rutherford (WA) 10 Jenny Macpherson (Vic) 11 Emma James (NSW) 12 Jennifer Manefield (NSW) 13 Emma Rickards (Vic) 14 Rachel O'connell (NSW) 15 Vicki Eustace (ACT) 16 Nikki Egyed (Qld) 17 Kate Charge (NSW) 18 Jemma O'brien (NSW) 19 Sally Cowman (Qld) 20 Rochelle Gilmore (NSW) 21 Carly Hibberd (Qld) 22 Alicia Evans (Vic) 23 Kate Mercer (Qld) 24 Toni Bradshaw (NZL) 1.13 25 Helen Kelly (Vic) 26 Candice Sullivan (Qld) 27 Natalie Bates (NSW) 28 Kate Nichols (NSW) 1.16 29 Amanda Spratt (NSW) 30 Judith May (ACT) 3.00 31 Jessie Maclean (ACT) 32 Toireasa Gallagher (NSW) 4.32 33 Carla Ryan (Qld) 6.10 34 Louise Kerr (Qld) 35 Kirsty Bortolin (Vic) 7.56 36 Briana James (Vic) 37 Nicole Whitburn (Vic) 38 Maryam Rogers (Vic) 39 Emma Gaul (Vic) 40 Claire Mclean (WA) 41 Bridie O'donnell (Vic) 42 Stephanie Frawley (SA) 11.31 43 Nicole Magner (Qld) 44 Anna Sutton (NSW) DNF Elizabeth Hayman (ACT) DNF Laura Bortolozzi (NSW) DNF Erin Chamberlen (NSW) DNF Hannah Banks (Qld) DNF Emma Mackie (Qld) DNF Yoko Okuda (Qld) DNF Liz Young (Qld) DNF Alexis Rhodes (SA) DNF Karen Sawyer (SA) DNS Kate Warren (Tas) DNF Kerryn Charman (Vic) DNF Gemma Goyne (Vic) DNF Deborah Fagg (Vic)