Jayco Bay Cycling Classic
Wednesday 5th January - Sunday 9th January
(incorporating Australian Championships (Friday) & Victorian State Championships (Sunday))
Click below to go to Day by Day results >
Day 1 - Williamstown Criterium
On a day which looked like it might mirror last year's for being soaking wet and cold, the Jayco Bay Classic officials took the initiative to postpone the start of the women's race in Williamstown for 5 minutes to allow a torrential downpour pass overhead.
Just as the riders had been introduced to the large crowd underneath the inflatable start / finish banner, the skies opened. Almost immediately, there was the sound of riders releasing air from their tyres, so as to improve grip on the now slippery streets. As helpers with umbrellas quickly descended upon the waiting riders, the announcement was made that the start was to be delayed - to allow the storm to pass overhead and to allow the streets to dry off, if possible.
The race started with further attention to the weather - the first five laps of the 45 minute race were ridden 'under control', or 'neutralised' - both mean the same - depends where you are reading this write-up. Unfortunately, Kerryn Charman fell on the treacherous roundabout just after the start / finish on the third lap. She was not hurt, although her rear gear mechanism was damaged. Kerryn was allowed to take the standard 2 laps out to get it fixed.
Almost immediately after the race was de-neutralised, Skye-Lee Armstrong slipped off the front of the bunch and began to build up a sizable lead. By the third lap-proper, her lead was 21 seconds. There was no luck for the Bike Now team though, as team-mate to Kerryn Charman, Briana James fell - almost at the same spot as Kerryn.
Initially, Armstrong was allowed to go alone. She took the first intermediate sprint at 15 minutes without any reaction from the bunch, which bunch remained intact behind her as the lead grew to 35 seconds. Then, at about half-distance - 22 minutes of the 45 minute race gone, Bridget Evans began to chase. However, her chase was short-lived, as Armstrong's team-mate and team leader, Oenone Wood with Kate Nichols in tow, caught Evans and went past her.
At the second intermediate sprint, Armstrong was still away, but about to be caught by Wood and Nichols. Once caught, she did not sit up, but worked with the other 2 to maintain their advantage over the bunch. The three worked well together - with 3 laps to go, they had opened up a huge 54 seconds gap over the main field - they were getting close to lapping the bunch, in fact. By this time, Evans team-mate Emma James had become a lone chaser in the gap between leaders and bunch.
As the 3 leaders took the bell, Armstrong led Nichols then Wood across the line. James was still in the gap with almost certainly 4th place in the bag, while the bunch followed 50 seconds back from the leaders.
The Lead Car swung into the finishing straight and it was the sole rider Skye-Lee Armstrong who sprinted up the road, beginning her two-handed victory celebrations well out from the line, whilst Wood and Nichols battled it out for second behind her. She crossed the line with a chorus of "Yes, yes, yes" - audible to all around. Speaking afterwards, Oenone Wood explained that she had asked Armstrong to lead her out, but that Nichols had 'stalled' in-between them, leaving Armstrong to go it alone and take an emphatic victory.
Given her dominant performance during the race, Armstrong deserved this win - which gives her the yellow leader's jersey and the green sprinter's competition jersey too.
After the presentation, Skye-Lee Armstrong, who turned 18 just 5 days ago (and who rode the Victorian Carnivals last week) told reporters that : the Williamstown victory was "a step up from my previous biggest win" (a bronze in the Junior World's Keirin) "(this has) all the best riders in Australia and a couple from overseas, so I'm really happy." "This is my third year riding, so to come out with something so big so early in in my career, I'm really happy with." She admitted that team plans had not been for her to go off the front so early. "We were waiting for the first sprint and then after that, attack, but I just wanted to see what the course was like, to see if I could hold the corners fast and I opened up a 15 second lead in 2 laps and just kept it going." After the second intermediate sprint, when Armstrong had been caught by team-mate Wood and NSWIS rider, Kate Nichols, they could, she said "see the back of the bunch and then 5 laps to go came up really quickly, so I was quite happy". The finish was not normal for her "I usually come from the back, I'm not a lead-out person, but Oenone told me to keep driving on the front - 'cos there was one bike away and gaining on us - I came around the last corner and had the guts so I just went for it." About riding in the same team as Oenone Wood, Armstrong is clearly in awe - "I was told three weeks ago by my coach, Gary Sutton, that I was going to get to ride with one of the World's best road riders, I wasn';t going to say no!"
Defending Jayco Champion, Oenone Wood was asked about her reaction to the rain in Williamstown this year - having started the Jayco Bay Series last year in Hastings in the rain. "A little bit of dèja vu, but on a course like this when its wet, its good to be in a break, so that was sort of the plan for the team today and it worked out perfectly to have two of us out there. Especially with Skye-Lee setting it up today, she had a great ride, out there from the gun, pretty much and it worked out well." Wood added that she is using the Jayco Bay Series as preparation for the Australian National Championships next week (last year, she won the TT and RR) "Then of course I'll be building up for the World Cup series again". (In which Wood was overall 2004 Champion). "This year its really crucial (to be in form early) because we've got those couple - Australia and then New Zealand a week after. I think that's going to have an impact on the series as a whole." Wood is looking forward to defending her World Cup Championship crown, riding this year for the Nürnberger team rather than the AIS, which was her 2004 team. Nürnberger, she says, are "a phenomenal team with strong riders and so much talent. Its going to be a really exciting year."
1 Sky-Lee Armstong (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 12 pts
2 Oenone Wood (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 10pts
3 Kate Nichols (NSW IS) 8pts
4 Emma James (Mercure Geelong) 7pts
5 Rochelle Gilmore (NSW IS) 6pts
6 Jenny MacPherson (Jayco VIS) 5pts
7 Haley Rutherford (Mercure Geelong) 4pts
8 Bridget Evans (Mercure Geelong) 3pts
9 Therese Cliff-Ryan (ACT) 2pts
10 Belinda Goss (Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team) 1pts
1 Sky-Lee Armstong (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 6 pts
2 Oenone Wood (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 2 pts
3 Kate Nichols (NSW IS) 2pts
4 Katie Brown (NSW IS) 2pts
1 Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston 22 pts
2 NSW IS 14 pts
3 Mercure Geelong 14pts
4 Jayco VIS 5 pts
5 ACT 2 pts
6 Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team 1pts