Race 4 - Geelong - 45 minutes
The weather was good for today's race. Sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20's. The headwind was in the back half of the course today. The course was the same as that used last year - based around Geelong's Botanic Gardens. With a downhill away from the start line and a sweeping turn to the back straight, the start was always going to be fast. The riders then went up an innocuous-looking drag into the headwind, before dropping down to the narrow and tight left-hander, which immediately rose into a sharp climb with a sweeping left bend at the top leading back to the start / finish area. Today's TV lap was done by Olivia Gollan - look out for it on (Australia's) Channel 10 review of the race on January 18th.
The start was the cause of trouble today. Before crossing the line, 4 riders were down. They were given a lap out though and rejoined without any trouble.
A lap after the first sprint, Francis Newstead went out alone. She was there for 3 laps, before being brought back by Rochelle Gilmore. The decisive break then went - Helen Kelly and Natalie Bates, joined a 2 laps later by Alexis Rhodes. The three stayed away and were joined by the other GB rider in the race, Sara Symington and Rochelle Gilmore.
With about 15 minutes of racing left, the leading 5 were 40 seconds ahead of the bunch, with Naomi Williams in between the two groups on her own - 20 seconds from each. The bunch let her go and although she was strong enough to stay away, she was not able to close any further.
With three laps to go, the lead had extended to almost a minute and on the bell lap, the leaders were 54 seconds ahead of the bunch. Naomi Williams was still in the middle of the two groups, 24 seconds down on the leading 5.
The uphill sprint for the win was fiercely contested, but Gilmore got it from Rhodes, Symington was third. Helen Kelly came in 4th, ahead of Natalie Bates, who coasted in, having worked hard in the last few laps to protect race winner Gilmore. Barring accidents, Naomi Williams was assured of 6th, which she took happily. The bunch sprint was important - the relative positions of series leader Rutherford and chaser, just one point behind Wood being built up by the commentators as important - which indeed it was.
Wood won the sprint and was 7th; Rutherford was 8th on the stage. This put them equal on points - 31 each. A count-back to previous placings was used to decide the leader for the final race. By 1 position, Rutherford retained her pink leader's jersey. She has a 1st and a 2nd, whilst Wood has a 1st and a 3rd.
The final race leaves all to go for - Rutherford and Wood are equal on 31 points, but Gilmore is still in contention with 27 points. If the other two let her get away again today, then she could sneak the series.....
Race 5 is at Docklands, Melbourne
Race time : 10:30am
RESULTS - Race 4
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