Geelong World Cup
UCI season-long trophy- Round 1
119km (8 laps of 14.9km)
On a day which was cool and windy, in-form Oenone Wood continued her domination of the 2004 season with her first ever win in a World Cup event.
Early action, in the second lap, saw Stacey Peters (T-Mobile) and Christine Riakos (FRF Couriers) pass through the start / finish area with 14 second advantage. Peters took the sprint prime. Their advantage grew to 26 seconds before the bunch reeled them back in during the third lap. Others tried their luck too - eventual third, Miho Oki and Katie Brown (NSWIS) split the race briefly into 3 bunches, before being brought back in. The sprint for the prime went to Hayely Rutherford (Nobilli-Fanini).
The AIS sent one rider after another off the front during the climb. Lorian Graham went, then Olivia Gollan, but there was no real impact by their actions. Graham took the sprint as the bunch crossed the line at the end of one of the fastest laps - 23minutes 49 seconds.
At half distance, Australian Criterium Champion, Alexis Rhodes (NSWIS) gained 100m-150m on the bunch, but again nothing came of it. This was going to be a race dominated by team tactics and with riders chasing UCI points and Olympic selection, noone was going to be allowed very far off the front. It was about this stage in the race, though, that the pace told on some of the more local riders, who drifted off the back and called it a day.
As the race passed through for 2 laps to go, Lorian Graham took her second prime of the day. The sixth lap had been a quick lap - 23minutes 54 seconds. The pace heated up as the bunch saw the 2 to go sign and although Amy Safe (AIS) did not get away on the hill, the damage was done. Kathy Watt (Freedom Machine) looked to be suffering slightly off the back of what was now a group of just 30 riders. As they headed back into Geelong towards the line for the bell, Mirjam Melchers showed herself for the first time, but her move was blocked. Last year's winner at Geelong, Sara Carrigan (QAS) attacked, but without any impact.
So it was then, that a group of about 30 riders entered the final stages of the race. As they came back into Geelong for the last time, Tina Mayola-Pic (JAYCO) and Kathy Watt (Freedom Machine) took the front, but the decisive move was made by Team Nürnberger. Margaret Hemsley at the front of the blue and white train led leader Petra Rossner through the final corners and into the finishing straight. Rossner wound it up and went for the line, but Wood had her marked. Exiting the corners, she had been fourth or fifth wheel, but she moved up on Rossner's wheel, so when the German sprinted, Wood went with her and then with 100m to go, she came around went onto the front, clearly the strongest and fastest. The joy and excitement on her face as she crossed the line was clear to see......
Rochelle Gilmore must take the prize for unlucky rider of the Geelong events this week. Having pulled her foot out in consecutive sprints for stages in the Geelong tour, she was fifth today, having suffered a puncture in her front wheel in the last couple of kilometres.
Speaking afterwards, Oenone Wood thanked her team. She has been sprinting well recently and they have done the job of getting her to the last kilometre for the sprints very well in the last few weeks. This victory was perhaps sweeter for the fact that Oenone Wood's family had travelled down from Canberra to see it, as well as some family friends too. She is looking forward to riding her next races as leader of the World Cup in the leader's jersey with the rainbow design - having to swap out of her Australian Road Champion's jersey to do so.
Asked whether she thought she would be a marked rider, Wood joked that it would be hard not be stand out in the multi-coloured Leader's jersey, but that the beauty of having a team with such strength in depth was that whilst people might be watching her at the next race, the AIS has the choice of riders to chase the win. The AIS team will be defending the jersey at the next event, in Italy (20th March 2004).
When asked if the jersey created extra pressure, she pointed out that this year is a year of pressure - "everybody's looking for results, everybody's looking to perform - these are selection races for the Olympics, so I don't think there's a rider out there who doesn't feel some degree of pressure to ride well at the moment."
Petra Rossner was quick to thank her team too - they have performed well this week - treating her "like a queen" in the Geelong Tour so that she arrived at stage finishes fresh enough to sprint and today too, the blue and white Nürnberger kit was evident at the front of the bunch in the last kilometre of the race. She congratulated Oenone Wood on what she thought was a "brilliant job", there had been no doubt, she said, "it was not even close".
1 Oenone Wood
2 Petra Rossner (Nürnberger)
3 Miho Oki (Japan)
4 Alison Wright (Nobilli - Fannini)
5 Rochelle Gilmore (SATS)
This event was the final in a week of racing based around the Geelong area. The weather has not been its best, but it was significantly better than Europe, especially this weekend. The racing has been competitive and hard-fought and the competitors have enjoyed this start to their 2004 campaigns. From the side of the road, too, it has been a great week and the spectators during the Geelong Tour and especially for the World Cup have been treated to a great spectacle. The big screen, which relayed images from the TV motorbike and the TV helicopter, was excellent - providing real-time race action and the commentary from Stuart Doyle, joined for the World Cup by Anna Millward was well-informed and entertaining. Race Director (and president of Cycling Australia), Mike Victor and his team deserve a pat on the back for their efforts.