Tour of New Zealand
Lower Hutt Criterium - 1 March 2006
It was a windy start to the Trust House Tour of New Zealand. Very windy. But then, Wellington, which is the capital city, is known as the "Windy City". Temperatures were significantly lower than last week in Geelong too.
The huge bunch did not stay together for long - within the first couple of laps, Emma Rickards (Univega Pro Team) tried to make a break, but as brought back. Next, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (T-Mobile) accelerated away, but was swallowed up in the headwind along the back of the circuit. A group of 8 did manage to get away and they created the successful race-wining break.
Priska Doppmann (Univega Pro Team), Sarah Ulmer (NZ Team), Trixi Worrack (Équipe Nürnberger), Josie Loane (UKNZjobs.com), Magali Le FLoche (T-Mobile), Elodie Touffet (Nobili Rubinetterie), Dale Tye (NZ team) and Hayley Brown (Chase-Smart) were the riders who managed to get away. Very soon, they had built up a lead of over a minute. By half-distance, the gap was so large that the eight could see the bunch turning off the finishing straight as they entered it. With just under 10 minutes to go, the 8 caught the back of the bunch - technically lapping it.
At this stage, they sat in and waited for the bunch to sprint out the minor places, clear the course and then let them, the only 8 who were not lapped riders, sprint for the stage honours. However, some riders seemed unaware of this state of play. The bunch became very disjointed and some riders did not bother to contest the sprint. Worse, though, riders did not clear the course after their race ended and so blocked some of the breakaway riders who were trying to continue racing. Pulling the lapped riders out and allowing the break to continue is standard practise and something which the European racers, especially, will have come across often.
Joe Kiesanowski (Univega Pro Team) did sprint and took ninth place from Rochelle Gilmore (Safi) and Miho Oki (Nobili Rubinetterie).
Once the course was clear, the decision was taken that it would be fairest to all 8 to stop the breakaway riders and to restart them with 3 laps to go. There was some discussion about this between team managers and officials, but the decision had been taken.
Sarah Ulmer led the 8 riders away. They warmed back up into the race by taking a steady pace for the first two laps. Even at the bell, there seemed little urgency, but as they rounded the final bend, the group had been split apart. Sarah Ulmer led Priska Doppmann up the right hand gutter and was sure of her victory 10m from the line. She looked over her shoulder to the NZ team staff in the pits and punched her hand in the air as a victory salute, crossing the line with a huge grin.
Ulmer is New Zealand's golden girl. There could not have been many spectators cheering for other riders throughout the race. Ulmer thanked her fans for their cheers from the podium and admitted that she felt sorry for the other riders, who could only hear her supporters. Popular throughout New Zealand, most Kiwis know who she is and what she does, Sarah Ulmer is a star and deserves her status. After the race had ended, she stayed around to sign autographs for fans - young and old. With a smile and whilst chatting to the youngsters who queued for her to "write her name" on their programmes, shirts, cycle helmets and drinking bottles, Ulmer did not turn anyone away.
She stayed until everyone had got her autograph; it was cold, it was dark and she was going to be escorted back to the race hotel by local motorbike police because her race bike has no lights, but she still smiled and took time with the fans. A true champion.
Ulmer told WCN that she was overjoyed to be in the race leader's jersey. Thinking about Thursday's stages, she admitted that the hills worry her and that her chances of staying in yellow are slim.
Photos - Click on any image to enlarge >>
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