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Mactier - outsprints the breakaway

World Pursuit Champ, Kate Mactier turned sprinter to take victory

Race Website

After a special presentation of riders Kate Nicholls and Alexis Rhodes, the ten teams and some individual riders were also presented to the large crowd. It was a somewhat emotional day, providing the comeback race for two of the five injured in Germany in July (2005).  Alexis Rhodes and Kate Nicholls are the first to return to high-level competition, this was their day to do it. It will have been a daunting experience for them, on top of their own questions about form and fitness which come naturally to anyone who puts them self into a competitive arena, there were eyes on them from every angle.  Their return to the public arena could not have been more public, there seemed to be more media interest in this bike race than for many years.  Now that they've made their first public appearances on their bikes with numbers on their backs, perhaps they will be left alone to race and the media interest will return to questions about form and fitness, goals and aspirations - the questions and interest they faced prior to the accident. 

The start line was a who's-who? of women's racing in Australia at the moment.  It also included several internationally known names, such as World Pursuit Champion, Katie Mactier, World Junior Track Champion, Sky Lee Armstrong, World Cup Champion , Oenone Wood and (it seems a little trite to just roll their names off, but it shows the depth of the Australian scene), various Australian Team members at international level: Kate Bates, Amanda Spratt, Olivia Gollan, Helen Kelly, Jenny Macpherson, Emma Rickards. Unfortunately, Rochelle Gilmore was unable to start due to a fractured vertebrae of the lower back. 

The race rolled out on a warm Williamstown afternoon, in contrast to last year, there was no danger of rain. Commentators Phil Liggett and Matt Keanon were convinced that there was a headwind "both ways today" and for most of the bunch, the race was very hard indeed.  Several riders including Alexis Rhodes, Tess Downing and Belinda Goss tested everyone's legs early on by trying individually to gain early breaks.  Readers may remember that it was Sky Lee Armstrong who as a member of a small early breakaway last year sprinted to victory and the first yellow jersey of the series.  Their energetic attempts came to nothing, with teams, perhaps remembering last year, marking breakaway attempts closely.  Active at the front to bring back attempts were the Jayco VIS team and the Pitcher Partners team, also there were members of the Mercure Hotel Welcome team. 

With just three laps covered, the race winning break went.  It was a large-ish group of around 10 riders.  The break contained Oenone Wood, Katie Mactier, Olivia Gollan, Jo Kiesonowski, Belinda Goss, Alexis Rhodes, Sally Cowman, Jessie Maclean and Monique Hanley.  Some significant names were either chasing, or choosing not to chase (depending upon their team’s affinity and desire for the break to succeed).  Chasers included Gemma Kenessy and Anna Sutton, members of the two teams who had failed to get a member in the break.  Content to sit at the front of the bunch and take an easy ride were Sky Lee Armstrong and Kate Bates – their teams were represented in the break.  

The breakaway continued to make ground on the chasers to the extent that with six laps to go they made contact with the back of the bunch.  The result was that a lap later, the bunch (or to be technically correct, lapped riders) were pulled out of the race in order not to impede or interfere with the sprint. So for the final five laps, there was just this small group of breakaway riders on the one kilometre circuit.  Alexis Rhodes tried to unsuccessfully to get away with four laps to go.  Olivia Gollan tried her luck with three to go but was also unsuccessful.  The final two laps were covered quickly and with riders trying to position themselves for the final sprint.  As they came into view up the finishing straight, the group was together in the middle of the road and "winding it up".  She did not start the sprint from the front, although Katie Mactier was in a good position. She certainly powered her way up the finishing straight and came through a certain winner.  Second was Jo Kiesonowski and the judges went back to the photo finish for third place, which was awarded to Oenone Wood.

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1  Katie Mactier       (Jayco VIS)       12 pts

2  Joe Kiesonowski  (Pitcher Partners)    10 pts

3  Oenone Wood      (Mercure Hotel Welcome)   8 pts 

4  Belinda Goss        (Volvo Team T5)   7 pts 

5 Sally Cowman       (Werribee Mansion Hotel/NSWIS)   6pts 

6 Alexis Rhodes       (Pitcher Partners)    5pts 

7 Hayley Brown        (Pitcher Partners)     4pts

8 Olivia Gollan          (Werribee Mansion Hotel/NSWIS)    3pts

9 Jessie Maclean     (Canberra Capitals)   2pts

10 Monique Hanley   (Siemens)  1pts


Post Race Quotes

Katie Mactier was extremely pleased with her ride, saying that she was "delighted with the win”. When asked where the final, winning move came from, she commented that the intermediate sprints had been a good indication of form.  She had noticed that Joe Kiesonowski was sprinting well and "Alexis Rhodes led Jo out and I came out of the final corner sitting on Jo's wheel and I came around her with about 40m or 50m to go."  In reply to whether she is looking to defend the jersey through to the end of the series, she laughed "it's a big ask, but I've got some great team-mates in the Jayco VIS team and we're going to give it our best shot, I don't really want to think that far ahead though." Then she was asked how it is a pursuiter comes to be riding the Bay Series and what she thinks of them? "The Bay Crits are actually great pursuiting training.  You spent 35 minutes riding into the wind with maximal racing, it's January, the Commonwealth Games are a " minute away", so great training."

Prior to the start of this, the first race of the season, Alexis Rhodes told WomensCycling.net that she's feeling good and "this race will tell". Afterwards, Rhodes was astounded with her comeback performance. "Awesome!  I just had a lot of fun out there today. It's great to be back racing with people like " N'ones (Oenone Wood) and Olivia Gollan and Katie Mactier and also my best mate Kate Bates. We had a great team out there and we worked together well.  But I suppose when you've got people like Joe Kiesonowski, Haley Brown and Kate Bates in the team it makes it pretty easy to have a good one. I was a bit nervous, a bit twitchy on the bike, as Kate Mactier will be up to tell you, but yeah I was all right."  

In front of a large group of journalists, Rhodes admitted to feeling nervous about the race; "I was really nervous, I haven't been that nervous since I was a junior."  It was also an emotional time for Rhodes, Nicholls and the other Australians, this being the first race back on Australian soil and the comeback race for the injured riders.  "Yeah it was very emotional on the start line, lined up ready to go, but when the gun went and we got out there it was business as usual.  Ames was one of my best friends and I know she'd be happy for me to be back riding."  When asked what she is aiming towards next, Rhodes was quick with her response, "The second round of the Bay Series. I'm taking one step at a time. After that though, the Australian Nationals hopefully. I want to do as much of the race as possible and then think about the track National Championships."  

Asked whether she had ever considered giving it all up (cycling), after the accident she replied "There are always those moments, but I've had a great support network around me.  Everyone said I should do whatever I want as long as I'm enjoying it.  And even though I'm not back to where I was before the accident, I still love riding my bike. I break things up into mini goals, that way it doesn't seem so daunting. I'm probably about 20% away from full fitness, may be a little less." She continued "It will be a lot easier for me to ride tomorrow, I'll really enjoy it, although I really enjoyed it today.  It will be easier to line up tomorrow - less nerves.  I'd like to thank John Treverrow for organising for me to be here and the Australian Sports Institute and all those other people who've helped." In reply to whether she'd been going for the win today, Rhodes was definite "Of course, I'd love to win, but it's the same for all of us on any day we’re all aiming for it."   

Kate Bates enjoyed her first race of the season.  "It was pretty good. I had three teammates in the break and I set that up and then got to sit back and watch the race."  For many of the Australian riders the Bay Series is a good test of form before the Australian National Championships a week later.  Bates is no exception, "Definitely a good warmup for next week, the Road Race is a big goal for me. If I could get that jersey and take it to Europe it would be the highlight of my career so far.  I'm hoping that this week will be a really good springboard for next week's Road Race."  Bates has switched teams in the off-season to join compatriot Oenone Wood at Team Nürnberger.  She is very excited "This represents the next step in my road career.  I've been in Holland for four years now it's time that I moved on and in joining Nürnberger, I'm joining the number one team in the world. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and it opens a lot of new doors."  Whilst talking about change, leaving teammates and so on the conversation turned to losing teammates (a reference to the tragic accident), how had Kate dealt with that?  "It has been a pretty testing year. You could say it's been character building and I certainly learned a lot more about myself, professionally and personally, which is something that happens in the tough times. Not just me but my sister Natalie and all the Aussies, I think we've all come out the other side."  Following on from that, she was asked whether it is tough being away from home for so long; going to Europe for the season?  "To be honest I do it a bit on autopilot, but I love what I do and I don't sit there and think oh my God I'm going away tomorrow for six months".  Before the 2006 departure, though, Bates has the opportunity to ride for Australia in the Commonwealth Games on both the road and the track. That is something she is looking forward to "(If selected) I’d get to ride on the road then the program switches to the track, that's pretty exciting for me, especially on home ground. And I'll have Alexis next to me on the track and my sister (Nathalie) on the road, if they're selected.  [Selection will be announced after the 5th of February.]


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Photos - click on any image to enlarge >> 


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