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 2 - Portarlington
Commentator at the finish line, Phil Liggett told no lies when he told the sizeable crowd that the weather at Portarlington was always poor - well, this year and last! Even yesterday, there was truth in his statement that it seemed that the British winter had followed him to Melbourne...... Anyway - its was very windy and it rained - hard - during the women's race at Portarlington. At least the temperatures were better than last year and better than Britain at the moment.
The bunch stayed pretty much together for the first couple of laps, then the pace at the front and the hill just before the finish line began to take its toll as riders drifted off the back. The initial casualties were Jemma Crean, Renee Braithwaite and Maryam Rogers. They continued to race, however.
At around 13 minutes came news that Oenone Wood had attacked at the back of the circuit, but a rider with her presence would not be allowed to go alone, she was followed by 3 others: Jenny Macpherson, Haley Ruterhford and Bridget Evans. Although they were back in the bunch within a lap, the scene was set fir the race. The moment when Wood and yellow jersey, Skye-Lee Armstrong had ridden down the hill away from the start to talk tactics, just as other riders were lining up, was obviously paying off. Armstrong is self-confessed not to like the hills and Wood is obviously very strong this week, so perhaps it was a case of keeping the leader's jersey within the team? Especially since Armstrong was also the leader in the sprints competition going into today. At 15 minutes and 30 minutes, she managed to summon the energy to contest the points left in the intermediate sprints, even if the race leaders had claimed the 'big points'.
Then came the rain - it was very, very heavy, but not too long-lived. However, the surface on the 'bottom' corner was greasy and Christine Riakos was first to fall, in the middle of the bunch. Although she lay on the ground for a while, there was nothing seriously wrong and Riakos was soon headed back up to the pit area.
At about half-distance, Wood went again, this time followed by yesterday's third placed Kate Nichols and Jenny Macpherson. With another rain shower, the surface claimed another victim - Kate Nichols went down whilst with the other two. She was very quickly back on her bike, but needed assistance at the pit area. After her regulation 'lap out', she rejoined and continued riding in partnership with Macpherson. Wood had attacked on the hill just after the crash and was ahead of the pair.
In fact, Wood was not to be seen again in this race by her chasers. She looked powerful and in full control - even when negotiating the wet corners. A few minutes later, on the same corner, whilst chasing Wood and now also Nichols, Macpherson fell. She, too, was quickly up and made her way back to the pits. This had been a crucial accident in the race - Macpherson was bound to rejoin the race with the bunch as there was no other point of reference for her position - she had fallen when behind Nichols and in front of the bunch. A devastating situation for her. However, she literally picked herself up , dusted herself off and went back into the race....
With five laps to go, Oenene Wood, on her own, had the back of the bunch in sight. As she crossed the finish line, she could see them climbing the hill after the 'bottom corner'. Next lap, 4 to go, Wood had gained on them - she was on the same section of road, just 24 seconds behind the bunch. Sensing the situation, Bianca Rogers jumped off the front of the bunch. She did not last long however and was soon brought back.
Given the situation, the bunch were given the bell - a lap to go - early, so that their presence could not impede any sprint by the race leader (always a possibility if the race leaders catch the bunch in the final stages of a race). Emma Rickard had tried her luck during the lap, but as they appeared up the hill, it was Macpherson and Rochelle Gilmore sprinting for third. Macpherson was the stronger and took it - a strange justice for her earlier fall!
Speaking afterwards, Kate Nichols reflected that new tyres and wet roads are not a good combination, something which most of the bunch would agree with, no doubt.
WomensCycling.net caught up with Oenone Wood after the prize presentation and asked her a couple of questions - firstly, 'what about that short ride down the hill before the start with Skye-Lee Armstrong - were you 'hatching' a plan?"
OW "We sure were - Skye-Lee doesn't like the hills too much, so she was going to see how she went today and obviously we were looking to get in a another break today. Particularly with those corners in the wet, they're a little bit dangerous, so the safest place to be is at the front."
WCN "You looked more in control than most in the wet on the corners - more confident? Less air in your tyres?" (referring to the fact that reducing tyre pressure in the wet can yield better grip)
OW "I didn't have very high pressure in my tyres, but I was also just taking it cautiously on those corners - backing off on the brakes into the corner and taking it really slow. The time you lose falling off is much more than the time you lose taking it slowly on the corners."
WCN "Did you enjoy it today? You looked like you were going to catch the bunch - was that an incentive?"
OW (smiling) "I was kicking myself that I had to do an extra lap today. I felt good today and I felt like I had a good ride"
WCN "Is it nice to be back in the Leader's Jersey?" (Wood wore the jersey in 2004 and took the overall victory by winning the final day at Docklands)
OW "Yeah, its good to be in the jersey, but we'll see how it goes - there's a few circuit courses and I think Skye-Lee will come into her own - especially on that 'hotdog' circuit (Friday - Geelong). She'll be one to watch this week and its good to be in the same team."
WCN "Finally - what impact do think tomorrow will have upon the racing?" The race incorporates the Australian Criterium Championships
OW "Everybody will be keen to get that Champions jersey. It will be a tough race tomorrow."
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