De Bortoli Tour
3 stages in 2 days, July 17th - July 18th
Pantons Gap Loop - 82km (2laps)
Review of the Stage
The conditions for Stage 3 on Sunday were better than had been experienced on Saturday for Stages 1 and 2. This was a good thing, considering the length and severity of the Stage.
Pantons Gap Loop contained a 1.5km section of ungraded / dirt road at the top of the 7km long climb. On Sunday, this climb was bad enough in a car, but the slimy state of the dirt section, with the larger potholes filled with gravel was worthy of a circa 1920's Tour de France mountain stage! Indeed, the descent which swept down towards Healesville was also reminiscent of a Pyrenean mountain - with wooded sections and sweeping turns, as well as a single hairpin turn.
The temperatures during the day fluctuated with cloud passing in front of clouds. The wind rose during the morning, but was nowhere as stiff as yesterday, but still biting.
After the first summit of Panton Gap, the women's peleton was already split, but it was no surprise. Fraser led Macpherson and Watt by around 30 seconds. There were groups and lone riders after that - just as yesterday . That is, the three lead riders watching each other closely and the rest of the field coping with the splits they caused as the battle started and then settling into groups of similar abilities. First time over the climb, Kerryn Charman followed through on her won - about a minute down on Fraser. The riders seemed quite tentative on the damp and slippery bends on the long descent leading down to the Badger Creek Road turn.
On the second lap, the gaps had widened. Macpherson had been towing Fraser up the hills and was developing small gaps on the descents. At Badger Creek Road, where they took the bell (only one more climb to Pantons Gap), Macpherson was 19 seconds ahead of Fraser. Watt was losing time and had slipped to 4minutes 40 seconds down and Sharman, almost 8 minutes off the leader.
The middle and backmarkers were making their own races - with 2 groups of 4 forming on the road - one at 16 minutes on the bell and one at 24minutes 30 off the pace. There were also riders continuing alone - a testimony to all those miles / kilometres of training and the desire not to waste them!
The finishing straight was long and fast - still levelling out after the long descent from Pantons Gap, which provided the backdrop beyond the gum trees which formed an arbour along parts of the road.
A scurry of activity at the finish line and the announcement of the "A Grade" being on their way turned out to be Jenny Macpherson, preceded and followed by race vehicles and powering to the line. With the Race Rules prohibiting any one or two-handed victory salutes, her delight was obvious anyway by the broad smile and the breathless "Yes" she let out as she crossed the lone to take Stage 3. Yellow Jersey, Caitlin Fraser came in about half a minute later - enough to retain the General Classification she had held since Stage 1 and take overall victory. Kathy Watt finished alone 6minutes back on Macpherson.
The first group of 4 came through 14 minutes back, whilst lone riders, including Birthe Hansen from Canberra, who finished 17 minutes down and Adrienne Lang at around 20 minutes. The other group of 4 sprinted in strongly 26 minutes down and a group of 3 at 41 minutes and the final, couple of lone riders are to be commended finishing just after that. This was not a weekend for the faint hearted and all these riders did well to finish.
After Stage 3, Macpherson told WomensCycling.net that she knew that Fraser was tired after Saturday and so she stuck with her on the first 2 laps, before pushing on and making the most of her better legs on Lap 3.
Fraser was naturally overjoyed with her win and admitted to WomensCycling.net that she had relied on Macpherson to pace her up the climb on the second lap (having led on the first) - she said she didn't have the legs to share the work. She said "I told Jenny to take it easy on the descent - I didn't want her to crash out in front of me, given her efforts to get me up the climb".
The timekeeper and results man, Alan Burns was working hard through Saturday night to make sure that the Stage 1 and 2 results were accurate and will be sending a full set of results (including Stage 3) to WomensCycling.net as soon as he can. "Check back soon"
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