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Australian Open Road Championships - CN
Ballarat, Australia, January 9-January 12, 2008
Stage 5 - January 12: Elite women's road race, 102 km
Wood takes second title
By Paul Verkuylen, with additional reporting by Mal Sawford
Oenone Wood (Team High Road) claimed her second Australian road championship win, riding away on the final climb with the surprise of the race, Sharon Laws (Fitzroy Cycles), and holding off a determined chase by Sara Carrigan (Queensland Academy of Sport). "I knew I had good legs today," Wood commented after taking the national champ jersey. "I felt really good and I had some really good help from Vicki Whitelaw in that break so I knew I just had to be patient.
"Queensland was very aggressive: Lorian Graham was actually the one that initiated the move that brought the break back, and then she continued to attack. So I knew that Queensland was going to be attacking us, and Vicki and I just had to play our cards as we were a little bit outnumbered."
Amazingly, the second place finisher was riding in only her eighth road race. Laws, who was born in Kenya and has also called Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the UK home, is an environmental adviser currently working for Rio Tinto and in Australia on a temporary visa. "I sometimes wake up and don't know what country I'm in!" In South Africa she picked up a bug for adventure racing, but it has only been during her current posting that she has had an opportunity to try road racing. After a win at the Tour of Bright, she realized "I really like hills." She connected with local coach Donna-Rae Sazlinksi, "and we've been out here practicing on the course a lot. I haven't ridden in such big bunches, or with the calibre of people here. It's just been an amazing experience."
With just eight riders in contention at the start of the final lap, Laws decided to thin the front group down further. "I knew I couldn't sprint, so I was really keen to get in a smaller break because in that group I would have come tenth. Someone said the Queensland girls were going to kick, but they didn't, so I thought 'maybe they're tired' so I may as well have a go."
Only Wood could respond, saying later "I knew I had to go with every attack that went on that last climb, so I got straight on her wheel and she put in a really hard turn, and by the time I turned around to see where the group was we had a big gap. I met her for the first time on that last climb. She's definitely a rider to watch out for, it's her eighth race and she's coming second at the national titles!"
Defending Olympic champion Carrigan was philosophical about her third place. "Unfortunately I didn't have that last little bit to go with the two girls on the last lap," she explained.
"We were counter attacking to try and get across, and it was mine that stuck. We did everything that we could so we can be happy in that," she said of her and her team's efforts.
Before Wood joins her High Road team-mates at their Californian training camp, she will tackle something different. "Just for fun, I'm going to do the national mountain bike title. Coming from Canberra, the national titles are in Canberra, and Giant was kind enough to give me a mountain bike, so I though why not?"
How it unfolded
One of the biggest fields ever assembled for the women's nationals headed out for a gruelling 102 kilometres on the tough Buninyong circuit. A steady tempo was set by the more experienced riders as they warmed their legs up for the furious battle which would come later on. (Cyclingnews was fortunate enough to be able to see all the action unfold aboard one of the SRAM neutral service motor bikes as they followed the race, tending to any unfortunate mechanicals.)
After two laps, a group of four riders had formed out front, including Ruth Corset (Qld), Amanda Spratt (NSW), Myra Moller (Vic) and Helen Griffiths (Qld). They had a lead of around a minute on the main field that didn't seem too interested in chasing.
This group was down to just two riders two laps later, as Moller and Griffiths were unable to maintain the pace set by Spratt and Corset, who were now 1'15" up on the main field.
Two laps later the scenario hadn't changed with the two women working well together out front, maintaining their lead over the field. But as peloton hit the climb with four laps remaining, an attack by Lorian Graham, who is looking good as she makes her come back to the top echelon of cycling after her horrific accident in Germany in 2006, blew the peloton to pieces.
Graham's attack was enough to put some of the world's best riders in difficulty as riders like Olivia Gollan and Rochelle Gilmore were dropped. She moved clear with a group of riders that quickly caught the two leaders. By the time this new lead group reached the finish for three laps to go, there were eight riders in the lead. Carrigan (Qld), Carlee Taylor (SA), Wood (NSW), Laws (Vic), Amanda Spratt (NSW), Ruth Corset (Qld), Vickie Whitelaw (ACT) and Graham had a 20 second lead over a chasing group of around 15 riders that included Nathalie Bates and Bridie O'Donnell, while Tiffany Cromwell (SA) bridged across to the leaders on her own.
At the top of the climb, Carrigan, eager to get things moving, attacked the lead group. The surge temporarily unseeded four riders from the lead group, however, a huge effort by Cromwell on the decent brought them back into the fold.
With just two laps to go, Whitelaw was on the front with Wood stuck to her wheel. She slowly turned the screws that would see Spratt and Cromwell lose contact with the leaders again. Cromwell however, was able to rejoin them. Spratt was not so lucky, her time out front took its toll and she lost touch with the leaders for the final time. The gap back to the chasers was 30 seconds at this point, and, apart from a dig by Bates, they were well and truly out of contention.
Another attack by Carrigan over the top of the climb was quickly neutralized by the remnants of the lead group as they descended towards the finish to hear the bell for the last lap.
On the final time up the climb all the riders looked to be waiting for someone to attack. The pace was high and as such the attack didn't come until Laws speed off the front during the steeper part of the climb towards the top. Only Wood was able to match her surge, and the two riders powered away from the group as Carrigan was in difficulty on the back.
The duo quickly built a 20-second lead over the six remaining riders, who were looking at one another to see who would take up the chase. A series of attacks followed, but it would be Carrigan who succeeded in riding away from the five to take up the chase to the leaders on her own.
Descending into the final kilometre, both leaders were conscious of the small margin they had, neither missing a turn as they headed towards the finish. Wood manoeuvred Laws into the lead in the final few hundred metres, easily powering ahead of the relative rookie to take her second national title.
Carrigan held the five chasers off to claim third spot, while Corset won the sprint for fourth, taking a well deserved victory in both the mountain and sprint classifications.
For the first time this year a separate classification was run for the under 23 women, with Carlee Taylor taking the title in her first year as a senior ahead of Tiffany Cromwell and Grace Sulzburger.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by John Veage
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
Elite women 1 Oenone Wood (ACT) 3.05.13 (33.04 km/h) 2 Sharon Laws (VIC) 0.02 3 Sara Carrigan (QLD) 0.25 4 Ruth Corset (QLD) 0.51 5 Vicki Whitelaw (ACT) 6 Lorian Graham (QLD) 7 Carlee Taylor (SA) 8 Carla Ryan (QLD) 9 Tiffany Cromwell (SA) 1.00 10 Natalie Bates (NSW) 3.11 11 Kirsty Broun (QLD) 12 Jemma O'brien (NSW) 13 Katie Mactier (VIC) 14 Jocelyn Loane (QLD) 15 Grace Sulzberger (TAS) 16 Louise Kerr (QLD) 17 Alexis Rhodes (SA) 18 Bridie O'donnell (VIC) 3.58 19 Kathryn Watt (VIC) 4.03 20 Amanda Spratt (NSW) 5.51 21 Carly Hibberd (QLD) 6.06 22 Jane Despas (NSW) 8.20 23 Fiona Spargo (VIC) 9.54 24 Rachel Neylan (SA) 11.41 25 Helen Kelly (VIC) 11.54 26 Emma Mackie (QLD) 27 Toireasa Gallagher (NSW) 28 Tahlia Paskin (QLD) 29 Hayley Wright (QLD) 30 Deborah Fagg (VIC) 31 Peta Mullens (VIC) 32 Megan Ross (VIC) 16.19 33 Sorcha Flett (NSW) 16.21 34 Suzanne Alway (VIC) DNF Rochelle Gilmore (NSW) DNF Olivia Gollan (NSW) DNF Emma Rickards (VIC) DNF Susie Boer (ACT) DNF Niki Fisher (ACT) DNF Kerry Knowler (ACT) DNF Tara O'brien (ACT) DNF Itarollina Rasanen (CA) DNF Rebecca Armstrong (MTB) DNF Katherine O'shea (MTB) DNF Leonie Burford (NSW) DNF Kate Finegan (NSW) DNF Sue Forsyth (NSW) DNF Amber Jenkins (NSW) DNF Joanna Somerville (NSW) DNF Rebecca Thyne (NT) DNF Hannah Banks (QLD) DNF Nikki Egyed (QLD) DNF Bridget Evans (QLD) DNF Helen Griffiths (QLD) DNF Sasha Harvey (QLD) DNF Jahna Hobbs (QLD) DNF Nicole Keily (QLD) DNF Michelle Mewing (QLD) DNF Patricia Palmer (QLD) DNF Kate Porteous (QLD) DNF Loren Rowney (QLD) DNF Liz Young (QLD) DNF Rebecca Bannon (SA) DNF Caitlin Deckert (SA) DNF Kira Mason (SA) DNF Olivia Pilla (SA) DNF Radele Berriman (VIC) DNF Jessica Berry (VIC) DNF Leila Bunnett (VIC) DNF Cristine Foster (VIC) DNF Lisa Friend (VIC) DNF Lisa Jacobs (VIC) DNF Jenny Macpherson (VIC) DNF Myra Moller (VIC) DNF Sophie Perez (VIC) DNF Maryam Rogers (VIC) DNF Tory Thomas (VIC) DNF Nicole Whitburn (VIC) DNF Davina Summers (WA) DNF Courtney Le Lay (QLD) DNF Jessica Douglas (VIC) Under 23 (Held as part of the Elite race) 1 Carlee Taylor (SA) 3.06.04 2 Tiffany Cromwell (SA) 0.09 3 Grace Sulzberger (TAS) 2.20 4 Louise Kerr (QLD) 5 Amanda Spratt (NSW) 5.00 6 Tahlia Paskin (QLD) 11.03 7 Hayley Wright (QLD) 8 Peta Mullens (VIC) DNF Rebecca Thyne (NT) DNF Hannah Banks (QLD) DNF Jahna Hobbs (QLD) DNF Loren Rowney (QLD) DNF Caitlin Deckert (SA) DNF Kira Mason (SA) DNF Lisa Friend (VIC)