Geelong Women's Tour
Stage 4 Results
A race of 2 halves - that was just the terrain! Today's stage made its way out of Lara (near Geelong) and along the long, straight roads leading northwards to the feared climb of Mt Wallace. It was the warmest day of the 2004 race too, which did not help the riders heading towards the test which the race manual suggested a 39x25 gear for...... The roads were straight, mainly well-surfaced and flat, until on the approach to Mt Wallace, the terrain began to roll. Then, it suddenly got very narrow and very, very steep. This climb is a beast and makes the profile of the stage look like a child's painting of a mountain : __/\__
It was a relief for all, no doubt to get over and to race back in to Lara for the finish of the Tour. Having said that, the mercury rose in the latter part of the race, touching 26'C on the long, dusty roads. The heat haze which was clearly visible on these roads would not have been a pleasant sight to those preferring cooler conditions.
Whilst waiting for the riders to reach the summit, race officials and team staff were quick to remember that in last year's event, some riders resorted to pushing their bikes up on foot, such was the surprise of Mt Wallace. Noone in the front of the race was brought to that this year, although it was clearly part of a tough finish to the varied week of racing and at that point there was still 50km to go in the stage!
The overall for the sprints competition was decided early, with Tina Mayola-Pic (JAYCO) taking the first intermediate sprint from Japanese champion, Miho Oki and Lorian Graham (AIS) third. This result had no effect upon the sprints jersey, Oenone Wood rolled out for the final stage with a 3 point advantage over Bates and 4 over Mactier.
At the second intermediate point, winner was Katharine Bates (NSWIS), who took the 3 points on offer, second was Kate Mactier (JAYCO), taking 2 points. However, Oenone Wood secured the Jersey victory by taking third for 1 point.
Perhaps of greater interest overall was the fact that the sprints also awarded time bonuses - the effect of these three gaining time bonuses was that Wood was now only 5 seconds ahead of Mactier on GC and 7 ahead of Bates. If these three came in at the front of the race, a sprint win could give any one of them the overall victory. The bonuses for the winner would be 10seconds (then 6sec and 4sec) - leaving the race potentially wide open.
But, it was after the second sprint that a breakaway of three went - Lorian Graham (AIS), Miho Oki (JPN) and Alison Wright (Nobboli-Fanini). They applied the pressure and were able to stretch the lead to over a minute, before being swallowed back into the bunch as riders caught them on Mt Wallace. They had thought that the gap they had, plus the ferocity of the climb, which would drop all but the strongest chasers in the bunch, would be enough to launch a sustainable breakaway of about 10 riders to take through to a sprint finish. However, Alison Wright told WomensCycling.net that they had been surprised by the speed at which the peleton completed the climb and therefore caught them.
Another break went away with 13km to go. Trixi Worrack (Nurnberger), Emma James (SATS) and Stacey Peters (T Mobile) managed to stretch their lead to 17seconds with about 8km to go, but they were not allowed to stay away. The bunch brought them back before 5km to go. A crash in the last few km saw Melissa Holt arrive at the finish line in the broom wagon, rather than the peleton. She was given medical attention at the finish.
As they reached the final 200m, the bunch split around a traffic island in the middle of the road. There was a blue train of Nürnberger riders on the front, with Petra Rossner again using the leadout of her teammates. As they swung over to let her through, Sarah Ulmer (NZ) simply kept accelerating up the other side of the road, followed by Nicole Freedman (World Team). A touch of wheels 200m out affected some of the lower placings on GC, although they all got back on.
The Blue jersey was safe - Oenone Wood and her AIS team had worked hard to get it and then to protect it. Kate Mactier came second and Katherine Bates third.
The red sprints jersey went home on Oenone Woods' shoulders, after yesterday's powerful display and the Under 23 competition was won by Katherine Bates, who held it comfortably all week.
Speaking after the event, Oenone Wood said that she had not known for sure that the blue jersey was hers until after she'd crossed the finish line. Her team looked after her today, she said, fending off attacks from T Mobile and Nürnberger especially. Although she thought the hill was not as bad as last year, she did have an easy gear on board in preparation. Today was not one where she was going to target the sprints, but when the others went forward for the second prime, she knew she had to go too.
Speaking about the end of the race, she admitted to some nerves in the last couple of kilometres, where "it got a bit hairy, especially coming into the finishing straight, there were riders everywhere and I got pushed into the gutter a couple of times, but I was just trying to stay up there and stay safe".
Speaking of the race she was pleased that the race has grown in stature, attracting international riders to the event and giving Australian domestic riders exposure to them. The importance of the win was not lost on her - she has bagged 25 UCI ranking points by winning the race overall. Next for Oenone Wood is the series of World Cup races and looking forward to Olympic selection. The World Cup starts on Sunday with the Geelong World Cup event and Wood believes that the team has proved its strength this week and they are 'hungry for a result' on Sunday.
Stage victor, New Zealand's Sarah Ulmer commented that although the sprint finish had been hairy, she had been assisted by her team, who had looked after her.
Under 23 winner, Katherine Bates, was pleased with her defence of the yellow jersey. As a track rider, she said that it was probably her best chance to take it to the 'roadies' at this stage in the season. Although, thinking back to Sunday's error in the prologue results (where she was granted the win and then adjusted to fourth), it had made her more hungry and motivated and that kept her going throughout the week. Perhaps it had been a blessing in disguise?
1 Sarah Ulmer (NZ)
2 Nicole Freedman (World Team)
3 Petra Rossner (Nürnberger)
Final General Classification
1 Oenone Wood (AIS)
2 Kate Mactier (JAYCO)
3 Katharine Bates (NSWIS)
Sprints - Wood
U23 - Bates