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BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, January 16-19, 2003
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Day 3 - January 18: Elite Women's road race, 102 km
Gollan climbs to the top
By Jeff Jones in Ballarat
After finishing second in the time trial on Thursday, 29 year old NSW schoolteacher Olivia Gollan thought that she would be hard pressed to improve on that placing in today's 100 km road race. With the likes of Margaret Hemsley, Sara Carrigan, Kym Shirley, Hayley Rutherford and Swiss world number 6 Priska Doppmann in the field, Gollan was outgunned in terms of experience, having only been racing competitively for three and a half years. However, her impressive strength combined with an extremely level head saw her take on Australia's best and win the Women's Road Championship in Buninyong.
"This is definitely the highlight of my career," said Gollan shortly after claiming the win. "On Thursday I came second in the time trial and really surprised myself. I thought that was my best ride. But today everything went to plan and I'm so excited. It's awesome."
Gollan began her charge on the ninth of 10 laps of the challenging 10.2 km course, when she attacked from a chase group containing Hemsley (Nurnberger/ACTAS-Cycle Cooma), Carrigan (Qld/Power Plate-Bik), Rutherford (WA/Itera), Emma James (NSW/AIS) and Lorian Graham (Qld/QIS), bridging a 45 second gap to the three tiring leaders, Kym Shirley (Qld/Itera), Oenone Wood (ACTAS-Cycle Cooma) and Christine Riakos (NSW/NSWIS), who had been away since lap 3.
Gollan praised the efforts of the three leaders, who had made the race hard from the beginning. "The three who got away rode so well, because every time we went up that hill there were attacks going from everybody to try and bridge across. When they got within about 45 seconds I put in an attack and managed to bridge across. "
"I banked on the fact that after 70 kilometres, in front the leaders would be tired," explained Gollan. "It was the race plan for us (NSW) to have a rider (Riakos) in any early break and for me to then attack in the final few laps."
She sat with them the final time up the 3 km climb, but just before the top put in another devastating attack. "I just decided to give it everything I had and it paid off," she said.
With only Kym Shirley and Oenone Wood having the legs to chase her (after Riakos was dropped), and the ever present threat of Hemsley, Carrigan and co. close behind, Olivia Gollan powered away over the last 7 km to take the win by 26 seconds. To their credit, Wood and Shirley stayed away to fight it out for the silver medal, with Wood easily beating the diminutive Shirley in the sprint. Hayley Rutherford led home the next group for fourth place.
Gollan's introduction to cycling was made by none other than 2002 champion Margaret Hemsley. "I was a triathlete but a very bad one," laughed Gollan, who lives in Adamstown, about 160 km north of Sydney. "The previous Australian champion Marg Hemsley is a very good friend of mine and she and her husband Greg Boorer persuaded me to take it up. It was a hobby when I first got into it and I got better and better. Now I want to go as far as I can."
"A pro contract would be really good, and an Olympic spot would be a really good thing, but you have to remain realistic. There were a lot of really strong girls in that bunch today. Whilst today I'm a winner, it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm the best overall."
Gollan's level head certainly helped in timing her attack today. The gap between the chasers and the leaders had grown to as much as 1'52 on lap six, and was still at 1'50 with three laps (30 km) to go. But then the climb started to really make an impact, and the leaders came back to 45 seconds with 2 laps to go. From there, it was just a question of who had the legs to make the move from behind.
In the break in front, Oenone Wood knew what was coming. "We heard the time so we knew she [Gollan] was getting closer to us," Wood told Cyclingnews. "When she came, she came pretty strongly. She put in a really hard effort on that last hill and that's when she got away. We tried to stay with her for as long as we could but she just powered away."
The other surviving member of the break, Kym Shirley, had been having troubles with her gears all day, which was one reason she decided to ride in a break rather than risk sitting in the bunch. "When Olivia came across I wasn't able to react strongly enough," said Shirley. "I thought 'here's trouble, I'm not going to be able to change gears again'. But she came across and she was just smoking. She took us up the hill and said 'they're still comin'. They had 39 seconds and she knew she was in trouble if they caught her because she was on her own again working for the AIS team."
But Shirley had no answer to Gollan's attack. "Oenone and I looked at each other and said 'we can't go with that, but we're in with a medal. We've got nothing if those girls behind catch us so let's go for it.' I didn't want to come home with nothing."
For her efforts, Shirley also won the Sprint Jersey as well as the bronze medal. "I'm ready to put the feet up for a while," she added.
Shirley will be returning to Europe to race with the Itera team this year, where she will be joined by fellow Aussies Hayley Rutherford (4th) and Alison Wright (11th). She will be based in Bergamo, Italy, and will do most of the big races on the European circuit, with the Giro and the Grande Boucle being the priorities.
Just one more event remains in the 2003 BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships. Tomorrow a record field of 151 will contest the 180 kilometre men's road race with defending champion Robbie McEwen, keen to defend his crown. But he'll face tough opposition from a host of Australia's top professionals including Cadel Evans, Stuart O'Grady, Michael Rogers and Baden Cooke.
Images by Jeff Jones/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Watt Shotz
1 Olivia Gollan (NSW) NSWIS 3.03.53 (33.28 km/h) 2 Oenone Wood (ACT) ACTAS-Cooma Cycles 0.26 3 Kym Shirley (Qld) Itera 0.28 4 Hayley Rutherford (WA) Itera 0.33 5 Sara Carrigan (Qld) Power Plate Bik 6 Margaret Hemsley (ACT) Nürnberger 7 Emma James (NSW) NSWIS 8 Lorian Graham (Qld) Astra Cycling Club 9 Christine Riakos (NSW) NSWIS 2.26 10 Jessica Ridder (NSW) Bathurst CC 6.52 11 Alison Wright (ACT) ACTAS-Cooma Cycles/Itera 12 Bridget Evans (Qld) Ffast 13 Priska Doppmann (Swi) VC Baar-Zug/UNIVEGA 8.09 14 Renee Fortunato (NSW) Sutherland Shire CC 9.20 15 Elizabeth Williams (Vic) Carnegie Caulfiel 9.51 16 Sally Cowman (Qld) Victor CC 17 Alexis Rhodes (SA) Norwood 18 Emma Rickards (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield 19 Miyoko Karami (Jpn) Katsuri Cycles 20 Jodie Till (NSW) Sutherland 21 Karen Hopkinson (Vic) Dirt Riders 15.30 22 Leeanne Manderson (WA) Northern Districts 15.49 23 Rebecca McConnell (Vic) Northcote 18.30 Sprint championship 1 Kym Shirley (Qld) Itera 16 pts 2 Oenone Wood (ACT) ACTAS-Cooma Cycles 15 pts 3 Christine Riakos (NSW) NSWIS 13 pts Starters: 50 Finishers: 23