A stroll in the park
Kate Mactier was easy winner of the Women's criterium today at Melbourne's Albert Park lake. With ex-Australian champion Rob Crowe (Rob is also a current paralympic gold medal tandem pilot on the track) in charge of determining the pace and the line taken by the peleton during the first couple of neutralised laps, novices and experienced riders alike were able to settle-in to the circuit. Crowe runs "Ride Wiser" - a co-sponsor of the day's racing, a company which specialises in training and development of cyclists at the 'grass roots' level, so it was a bonus to have him at the helm of this first race in the inaugural "Albert Park Grand Prix".
Although the pace picked up when Crowe left the women to their own devices, the front half of the peleton stayed together until the final lap. Racing through the start / finish area on the 4km circuit, Kate Mactier (Fitzroy Cycles) jumped clear. By the time she was in view again, heading for the finish line, she had an unassailable lead. Victory celebrations for the double silver medallist at Olympic and World pursuit on the track started from 75m out with a double-handed salute to the crowds on Lakeside Drive. A quick peek over her shoulder with 35m to go gave Mactier the assurance that she was home and dry, as she continued to celebrate up the home straight. The race today was as close to being in her back garden as possible and she took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy her win.
Second and third placed riders Gemma Goinne and Alison Chiu followed in, before the sprint for fourth was won by Tess Downing
Whilst the warm morning and friendly atmosphere meant that most women stayed around after their race, several tried their hand in subsequent men's races. Belinda Goss (Tasmania IS) performed well in the C grade race, whilst Goinne and Mactier rode with the B men.
Chatting after her efforts, a relaxed Kate Mactier had a long interview over the public address system with MC, Mattie Keenan. It has been a long, successful morning for all of the Australian women, Mactier is no exception. She can count herself unlucky in some respects - having broken the 3000m Individual Pursuit world record in Athens, only to lose it again and walk away with 'only' a silver medal.
A mention about the A grade race which was the finale for a fine day's racing. There was perhaps more of an international flavour than organiser, Marcel Leema expected when he put this race on. The Commonwealth Youth Games start in Bendigo this Tuesday (with the time trial). The teams from England, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales have been staying in Melbourne this week and rode out from their base at Clayton to catch some of the action at Albert Park. Team England and Wales actually had junior male riders competing in the men's A grade event. A break of three rode confidently off the front to control the race, but the youngsters were active in chasing them down and working hard at the front of the peleton. They didn't catch the break, but nor did they disgrace themselves AND they can go home and tell their mates they've ridden on the famous F1 motor racing circuit!........
BreakawayEvents.com.au, who were responsible for the day of racing were hoping beforehand that the Albert Park Grand Prix would become an annual event. Having seen the excellent job done by Marcel and the team, lets hope so. The support and experience offered by Rob Crowe and Ride Wiser, plus the financial support provided by HLP meant that this was a slick and safe event which was fun for all. The women's events were sponsored especially by Susie Leema designs - handbags and accessories. The BBQ and jumping castle were busy all day and the crowds grew steadily all morning.
Here's to 2005.......
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