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Diamonds at the Dome - NE
Ararat, Victoria, Australia, December 28, 2005
Downing dominates in Ararat
By CJ Farquharson, www.womenscycling.net
Australia's richest track race for women took place in Ararat on Wednesday, December 28. Previously known as the Ladies Diamond Stakes, the 2005 Diamonds at the Dome was sponsored by the Australian Diamond Company and run by the Ararat and District Cycling Club. Previous winners include Rochelle Gilmore (1997) and Liz Williams (2002). Erin Peoples was the 2004 champion.
Diamonds at the Dome is a wheelrace, a uniquely Australian race which provides all competitors with a (theoretically) equal chance of victory. The riders are handicapped, or given marks for the event. The mark denotes how far in front of the actual start line the riders are provided with a headstart. For example, 150m means a 150m advantage over a rider starting on scratch. 150m in the 2000m Diamonds at the Dome event means a 1850m dash to the line instead of the full distance. If the handicapper assesses everyone's form correctly and does a perfect job, the result will be a photo finish between all competitors for first...
During the afternoon, there was an intermittent, light breeze which provided a tailwind down the finishing straight, but more importantly moved the air around the bowl, which was seasonally warm with temperatures nudging towards the high 30°C - that's almost 100°F(!). The breeze died and the temperatures dropped slightly for the evening, which made things a lot more bearable and provided ideal conditions for fast racing on the 250m track.
The heats were fiercely contested during the afternoon, with the first nine from each heat going through to the final. The first heat was won by Tess Downing (Drapac Porsche) in what was to be an almost complete domination of all the events she rode in Ararat. Her time of 2.37.65 for the 2000m was from scratch and she rode alone to sweep up the rest of the field after South Australian, Bianca Rogers did not start. Lisa Friend (Carnegie Caulfield) looked to be enjoying her time at Ararat - relaxed and smiling, but when the race started she got down to business from 35m and followed Downing to second in the heat. Third was longmarker, Jessica Lane (Carnegie Caulfield), who was off 200m. The second heat was a little faster than Heat 1 - 2.36.74 for 2000m. The winner, Esther Pugh-Uren was off 120m and took first relatively easily. She beat local, Tahlia Clayton (Ararat) into second, Clayton rode off 140m. In third was Carlee Taylor (Team O'Grady)(115m).
The line up for the final saw Tess Downing off scratch again, with Briana James (The Freedom Machine) and Elizabeth Georgougas (Bici) shortmarkers ahead of her in the first bend. Lisa Friend and Renee Braithwaite (South Australia) were also in sight - all of these at less than 50m handicap. The longest marks were given to Louise Bourke (Blackburn) and Jessica Lane, who was 240m lined up just behind Downing in the finishing straight - just short of a lap head of her at the start!
The start saw the various helpers pushing their riders into the race with as much might as they could muster. Within a lap, two distinct groups had formed - the longmarkers joined up and worked to stay away, whilst those nearer scratch also came together as a chase group. There were some riders between the groups, who rode individually until swallowed up by those from behind. At half distance, the chasing group were still well behind the lead group and seemed to have stopped closing the gap. With 1000m to go they still needed to make up half a lap just to make contact and didn't look to have the legs to do so. Then, Tess Downing came the long way around that group, going high on the track to take the lead and with a noticeable rise in pace, she closed the gap on the lead group with 2 to go. Making contact with the back of the lead group was an impressive move in itself, but with most of the 18 starters now all together, there was still a lot to do to get through and to the front of the race. At the front of the race, Tahlia Clayton and Nicole Holt were battling for position, with others such as Michelle King (the ex-National sprint Champ) and Lisa Friend focused on maintaining their position just behind them.
At the bell, Clayton and Holt were still at the head of the race, Carlee Taylor had moved up in the bunch and Downing could see that there was only one way she could get to the finish line first - by going high and taking the long way around the bunch (for the second time in the race). She began her move with just over a lap to go and could be seen moving over the top of the others as the bunch went along the back straight for the last time. A huge kick in the final bend saw her move forwards and in - she crossed the line to win with half a wheel advantage over Tahlia Clayton. Third was Carlee Taylor and fourth, Nicole Holt.
Downing is the first rider to win the Diamond Race from scratch in the history of the event. Hers was a huge effort and a great display - Downing deserved her victory and she was well rewarded for her efforts. First prize was a diamond valued at $3000, second prize was a diamond valued at $1500, third a $1000 diamond and fourth a $750 diamond.
The junior Diamond Race was won by Megan Dunn (also off scratch) ahead of Natasha Pearse and Georgina Freeland. These prize winners were presented with diamond jewellery by the Australian Diamond Company.
An entry / gate prize was also donated by the Australian Diamond Company - a $2000 diamond engagement ring. It was exclusively designed to celebrate the company's 21st anniversary and is the showpiece in their "Engaging Romance" range.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by CJ Farquharson/www.womenscycling.net
Heat 1 - 2000m 1 Tess Downing (Drapac Porsche) 2.37.65 2 Lisa Friend (Carnegie Caulfield) 3 Jessica Lane (Carnegie Caulfield) Heat 2 - 2000m 1 Esther Pugh-Uren 2.36.74 2 Tahlia Clayton (Ararat) 3 Carlee Taylor (Team O'Grady) Final - Diamonds at the Dome 1 Tess Downing (Drapac Porsche) 2 Tahlia Clayton (Ararat) 3 Carlee Taylor (Team O'Grady) 4 Nicole Holt Junior Diamond Race 1 Megan Dunn 2 Natasha Pearse 3 Georgina Freeland