26 February 2005
The Austral Wheelrace is the oldest track cycling event in Australia. The 2005 event was the 107th edition of the event. In addition to the men's Austral, the evening at the Vodafone Arena includes 2 events for women - a scratch race and a handicap race. The fields for both events were quite evenly matched, with bunches staying together in both races until the last laps, although there were some brave attempts to take both races from the front with a lone break....
Scratch Race 12 laps
The only attack which looked like it might have any teeth was by Briana James., who went off the front with about 4 laps to go. She managed to squeeze her advantage out to 50m, before being reeled-in by an accelerating group behind her which had woken up to the potential threat of James' effort. The bunch caught her on just before the line for the bell lap. With James' energy spent, it was Tess Downing who came through to take an impressive victory in the sprint over Peta Mullins and Liz Williams
Tess Downing has had a short break since the Australian Track Championships 10 days ago. She told Womens Cycling "I'm happy to get a win here at the Austral tonight. I've just stepped up from under 19's and its a big step into the senior women from the juniors. The seniors are a bit more aggressive and a bit more 'up close' and a lot faster. Its a case of getting used to it and mixing it with them." With respect to her sprint and the scratch race result, she continued "I'm not bad, I think I'm more refreshed than in-form. Its good to come back refreshed and get back into it." She did not have any real strategy for the race: "....not tonight, I just try to have fun at this type of events. Its a hectic season and this is a chance to enjoy it."
Handicap Race 6 laps
The line-up for the handicap race was spread along the back straight and penultimate bend back to the finishing line. Tess Downing and Jessica Berry were on scratch, with the longest riders, Jessica Lane and Roz Bradley at 130m - one of the shortest advantages in recent events at the Vodafone.
The starter's gun saw the Cyclists International helpers pushing the large field into the race with great energy. Very quickly, a small group formed at the front of the race comprising the longmarkers. At the back, Downing and Berry were sweeping their way forward, picking up help on the way. That help for the scratch riders included the rider on only 10m, Rahne Demarte, a relative unknown in recent years on the track. The race continued and with 3 laps to go, the 2 main bunches became one long line of riders. With 2 to go, the main contenders were on the front of the bunch and some of the slower riders had begun to drift out of contact from the bunch. Hannah Bush was in the lead and took the bell with 1 lap to go, but others had their eyes on victory too. Into the finishing straight, Rahne Demarte had an obvious advantage and was still opening up her gap over Liz Williams and Tess Downing.
The victory was particularly sweet for Demarte - she has only recently come back to cycling after 31/2 years off the bike. She spoke with Womens Cycling whilst warming-down "I was pretty pleased with that. I've had a few years off the bike and to come back, have a race, feel good and to have a win is especially good. I didn't think that I could do it for a while so to have a win is really rewarding." Demarte got back on her bike about 10 months ago, with rides every couple of days before resuming full training 3 months ago. "I'm just trying to get back into the sport, because its such a great sport. I love it." About the race, she told Womens Cycling "It was a good race for me, a good distance and I felt fantastic. The riders at the back did a great job, everyone pulled their weight and when everyone does that, we seem to get one of the backmarkers up front."
Photos from the Austral will be posted on this site on Monday 28th February.
WomensCycling.net is covering the UCI World Cup, round 1 at Geelong on Sunday, so photos are delayed until after then. Sorry
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