Dead heat on the Bay
Mactier goes off-road to tie with Wood
The sun came out at Portarlington today. The women's race was run out under warm, sunny conditions with a noticeable breeze. The race lined up with series leader, Katie Mactier looking relaxed in her yellow jersey. Joe Kiesonowski, who is lying second in the sprints competition after the first race, wore the sprinters jersey because Mactier was also the leader in the sprint competition. Prior to the start, Alexis Rhodes admitted that her efforts yesterday may have taken more out of her than she expected. She said that she was "a little sore this morning." however after she'd warmed up for a few laps, Rhodes found her way to the front of the bunch and definitely made the others suffer up the hill to the finish line.
The race started relatively slowly, with the bunch staying just about together until the first sprint. Only a handful of riders had found the pace too fast before this point. However, as the serious contenders put their collective foot down to contest the intermediate sprint, a break appeared in the bunch. Haley Brown and Amanda Spratt capitalised on the damage that had been done by jumping away from the front of the break. They managed to stay away until the latter stages of the race. Haley Brown won this race of the series in 2004 and knows the circuit well whilst Amanda Spratt is a developing rider with the talent to follow. Their breakaway was pulled back within a lap by a determined chase from Wood and Mactier. In a textbook move, Brown's teammate, Kate Bates, made a counter attack off the front and with the laps counting down rapidly towards the end of the race, stayed away for three laps. This move had further split the race, with just a handful of contenders remaining. Sensing the danger, perhaps and with the end of the race looming, Olivia Gollan first, then Katie Mactier's Jayco VIS team chased after Bates and neutralised her move with around 1 1/2 laps to go.
With three laps to go, Katie Mactier seem to have missed the final corner before the finish line. She rode onto the grass at the apex of the bend, braked heavily, turned and accelerated off the grass back into the bunch. This was a manoeuvre that she repeated on the final lap. Once more, she left the road (or as they call it here in Australia, the bitumen) did an Armstrong-esque piece of off-roading, chased back into the bunch and then with an awesome effort, contested the sprint. As the riders came into view at the brow of the hill where the finish line is located, Haley Brown and Oenone Wood looked to be battling it out between themselves, but Mactier didn't give up. She maintained her effort all the way to the line and lunged for the finish. As Mactier was lunging, Oenone Wood was celebrating what she thought at the time was a race victory. Within a fraction of a second, it was clear that Wood was aware of Mactier's final throw. With her arms half-raised Oenone Wood looked left to see Mactier appear and realised that the victory perhaps was not sealed, she raised a hand to her mouth as the realisation hit.
There was a lengthy wait for the result as it was announced that the judges wished to review the photo finish. Whilst waiting, the race commentator interviewed Oenone Wood, who admitted "I'm going to feel a little stupid if I didn't get that." When told that the result didn't affect the fact that Kate Mactier would be retaining the yellow jersey, she replied that "maybe not tomorrow, but on Saturday and Sunday I might have it" revealing that retaining her series title is a goal for this week. After the result had been announced as a dead heat, Wood pointed out that "Katie's got one up on me, I'll have to win tomorrow." That would certainly be a desirable outcome for Wood, since race three on Friday evening incorporates the Australian National criterium championships.
This is the first time in the 17 year history of the event that a dead heat has been announced. It is not the first time however that Oenone Wood has been involved in such a tight finish at Portarlington. As recently as February 2005, during the Geelong Tour (which precedes the Geelong World Cup), on the very same circuit, Oenone Wood and Jo Kiesonowski caused the judges to call for a review of the photo finish when they crossed the line bumping shoulder to shoulder. On that occasion, Oenone Wood was awarded the victory by less than the width of a tyre. "I think it's just one of those sprints, it's quite long it's a little bit hard, people can come up at the last minute."
As joint winners, Mactier and Wood provided a lighthearted comedy act for the postrace interview. Television interviewer and ex-Tour de France star, Phil Anderson asked what the winning move had been? To which Oenone Wood quipped "Katie went so wide that she hit the dirt and my tactic was to stay on the bitumen, then I put my hands up a little bit too early and she came through very fast." Mactier added "I would just like to point out that I like to take myself out of the comfort zone now and then. Bitumin gets a bit, you know....." (She laughed) "I made a few more obstacles for myself and went cross country for about 20m. I had a perfect lead out by my team mate and cooked it on the corner and ended up in the dirt for 20 odd metres and thought I was well and truly out of contention, but I just put my head down and kept pounding away and sure enough I was kind of catching them bit by bit. I think Oenone maybe thought she had it in the bag and sat up on the line and I caught her on the line, drew even with her." Had Wood celebrated too early, putting your arms up too early? "I think it was bit presumptuous on my part, 'cos Katie Mac certainly came through pretty fast and I wasn't expecting that. So I'll have to be a little bit more on the ball tomorrow and (with a smile and a glint in her eye) not underestimate Katie Mactier!" this drew a laugh from Mactier.
1= Katie Mactier (Jayco) 11 pts
1= Oenone Wood (Mercure Hotel Welcome) 11 pts
3 Hayley Brown (Pitcher Partners) 8pts
4 Belinda Goss (Volvo T5) 7pts
5 Jennie MacPherson (Jayco VIS) 6pts
6 Jo Kiesonowski (Pitcher Partners) 5pts
7 Sally Cowman (Werribee Mansion Hotel / NSWIS) 4pts
8 Olivia Gollan (Werribee Mansion Hotel / NSWIS) 3pts
9 Marina Duvnjak (Siemens) 2pts
Alex Rhodes (Pitcher
Photos - click on any image to enlarge >>
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