Geelong Women's Tour
February 22 - 24, 2005
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Stage 2 Review
Late Update - winner Kathy Watt relegated to last in TT - click here
With the sun high in the sky and the temperatures in the high 20's 'C, the hilly and technical criterium stage at Portarlington was hard. There were 30 laps of the 1km circuit to complete and it didn't take long for riders to start dropping out of the back of the bunch on the climb to the main road. Initially, one or two lost contact, but within a handful of laps, there were two small groups of stragglers forming.
At the front of the race, things stayed together until the first intermediate sprint. With time bonuses on offer, there were no holds barred and the pace increased as the contenders positioned themselves for the race across the line. Both sprints were taken by Oenone Wood, who had been under orders not to go for them specifically, but if she felt good, to try.
A couple of laps later, 'the elastic' snapped and the race broke into 2 main groups. The leading group moved steadily away from the chasers, until they were almost 3/4 of a lap ahead and could see the chasers ahead of them on the long straights of the rectangular circuit.
As the race edged towards the end, the big names came to the front of the bunch - from the protected positions they had maintained within it for most of the race. The 'Bates Train' - Kate and Natalie along with Suzanne de Goede, Judith Arndt and Oenone Wood, the New Zealand National team were there too.
Crossing the line for the bell lap, Judith Arndt strung the bunch out into a long line, followed by Wood and Suzanne Lungskog. She maintained the pace down the hill and around the corner. When the race came back into view at the corner 200m from the line, Kate Bates was on the front, having taken a lead out from Natalie. But, as the leaders sprinted up the hill to the line, it was Oenone Wood and Joanne Kiesanowski on the front. The pair accelerated away from the rest and as they crossed the line, there was no splitting them.
The judges took quite a while to analyse the photofinish frames and eventually announced Oenone Wood the winner. This win gave time bonuses for the stage of 10seconds. Along with the intermediate sprints bonus, Wood had done enough to make up the deficit on race leader Kathy Watt and take the yellow jersey into Stage 3. The commanding sprint performance from Wood also gave her the red sprinter's jersey.
Alexis Rhodes maintained her position as the leading under 23 rider and will wear the blue jersey in Stage 3.
Speaking afterwards, Kate Bates thanked sister, Natalie, for her efforts. Natalie was lying second overall after the time trial and as was noted by Kate, could have ridden for herself on Stage 2. Instead, she rode for Kate and made a huge effort in the closing stages of the stage to lead Kate out in the sprint.
Oenone Wood was pleased to be in the Leader's jersey and in the sprint which was a photofinish, commented that "it was only really on the line that I actually got past Joanne, I really felt as I went over the line that I had it, but you can never be sure". She is clearly aware of the potential threat posed by the Ton van Bemmelen AA Drink team, which includes the Bates sisters. Given that the top three riders are within the same second on General Classification (Wood taking the jersey thanks to the 1/100th seconds she was fastest in the time trial), she sees the intermediate sprints becoming important - as they were last year, in fact - and commented that "I reckon I'm going to have a tough couple of days fighting against 'Batesy' for these intermediate sprints." The strength of the Nürnberger team is seen as an asset by Wood, who is excited to be in the German team. The jump at the bell for the final lap effort by World Champion Judith Arndt was very much appreciated, "its going to be fantastic working with the "human motorbike" this year - she is such a strong rider, she's amazing, as are all the others in the team. Its going to be a great year". This is Wood's first race with the squad and she was pleased to have performed on day 1, she is enjoying getting to know her new team-mates. "I've raced against them, said 'hello', but never really known them that well."