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Move Over Joan of Arc - Helen Has Arrived

 

The following article was first published on CycleSportNews.com. WomensCycling.net is gratful to Peter Ford from CycleSportNews.com for permission to reproduce the article and the images.

CycleSportNews.com

Every now and then, history has a habit of conjuring up great women to conquer, rule and change the shape of destiny.

Photo:  The Champion of Wangawallin, Helen Griffiths
© Peter Ford (Cycle Sport News)

Oolaf the Cave Girl, Boadicea, Joan of Arc, Katherine the Great and Madame Curie, to name but a few., made huge inroads into altering the course of “mankind” (and you only had to view the cave drawings of Oolaf the Cave Boy to realize this!!!)

Recently, another great female figurehead has emerged in the shape of Helen Griffiths.

Now Helen is not your conventional “woman in shining armour” or sparkling sequins, and you won’t find her in the 2005 edition of Who’s Who, or offering her services as the heroine in a Mills&Boon novel, but this Gold Coast mum is “one in a million” when it comes to her cycling crazy family.

Last October, Helen hung up her vacuum cleaner and swapped her fluffy slippers for a pair of racing cleats, and headed off to the Maryborough Masters Games.

Now Maryborough isn’t exactly the cycling capitol of the world, and Susanne Ljungskog and Judith Arndt aren’t likely to add it to their racing schedule in 2006, but Helen Griffiths was determined to turn these Games into a splash of gold.

“I had only been back on the bike for 4 weeks, but we’d heard what a fun event it was, and decided to give it a go. The competition promised to be pretty tough, so we just went up there to compete and have fun. I must say that the jerseys were quite nice and I thought I could buy one as a souvenir. However, I was told I would have to win it to wear it – so maybe that had something to do with how I finished up performing!!

Photo:  Helen Griffiths- First women to be crowned Champion of Champions at the Maryborough Masters Games© Peter Ford (Cycle Sport News)

With four tough events ahead of her, life in the bike saddle was not going to be easy.

A ramp sprint got things rolling on the Friday night, followed by a Time Trial and Road Race on the Saturday, plus a Criterium on Sunday morning.

After the “battle dust” had settled, Helen Griffiths, “mother of the year” , nurse extraordinaire, and the pride of Wangawallin, emerged in a blaze of glory.

Four races and four gold medals!!!

It was enough to put husband, Peter, back into that little clinic down on the Coast, and all the good therapy work following Helen’s earlier triumphs in 2004 and 2005, have reportedly been undone!!!

It’s no good being the husband of a champion cyclist, especially if you fancy being “god’s gift to cycling” yourself.

Sorry Pete, it looks like Helen now has the points on the board…well and truly!

Helen Griffiths also picked up the Champions of Champions Trophy, which is awarded to the rider, male or female, who scores most points over the four events.

Four riders picked up maximum points, and when put to a vote, officials awarded the overall trophy to Helen.

This was the first time in the 15 year history of the Maryborough Masters that the top award had been awarded to a female.

“It was a real surprise” Helen told CSN. “Some of the other guys were world champions in their day…so Go the Girls!!”

All up, 11 women contested the Masters 2 races over the weekend, and 10 in Masters 3.

Helen competed in Masters 3, but as she says. “There were quite a few names I didn’t know, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Two girls I did know – were Linda White and Melissa Anderson, but no one else from the Gold Coast made the journey north”.

Photo: Helen's husband, Peter- Coping well under the circumstances!
© Peter Ford (Cycle Sport News)

“I think the Masters 3 field was possibly stronger – they certainly had a great road race.

In the Masters 2 road race they all went off pretty slowly, so Linda/Mel and I attacked from the start.

Two or three others came with us but after a few k’s it was only Linda and I.

Linda is a strong rider and I wasn’t sure what she could do but by about the 12km mark her legs were hurting and I ended up by myself.

That continued for the rest of the road race.

I thought I was being caught about 3km to go but was only imagining things!. I was more worried about Linda in the Crit, as she is a great tactician in criterium races.

Linda , Mel and I got away again from the start and just rolled over. My legs were a bit tired, so I thought I would just take my chance to sprint against her. There was a little rise just before the line so I knew I would have to pick the right gear and be in a good position to sprint. Luckily I picked the right gear, got a gap and held them off for the line.

Helen recalls that the most surprising and fun event was actually the ramp sprint.

“I’d never done anything like that before, and I didn’t know what gear to do it in. It was only 150m on the track so not long enough to get too wound up. I was told to do it in the 39/16 which I was really nervous about, as I have never been much of a spinner! But it worked and I managed to break the record by just over a second. There was also some gossip in Woolies the next day that some woman beat her husband’s time – however, he had a mechanical and pulled his foot coming off the ramp!!

Photo: Helen shows off her Champion of Champions trophy
© Courtesy of H.Griffiths

So after her taste of glory in Maryborough, is it time for this cycling mother to slow down, get back into the kitchen and to sacrifice race strategies for working out what to put on the kid’s sandwiches?

“Slow down! Helen gasped, “I have only just started! I have done some good ground work for the 2006 road season – just nursed the injuries along, and looked after myself. Am still looking at what I will do in 2006 but there are some good races about”.

“My friends who don’t cycle think I am totally nuts, and most of my family agree!

Our 14year old hates cycling but I decided it is payback time for the thousands of hours and money we have spent on gymnastics and ballet – But secretly I think she thinks it’s okay that I am keeping fit and healthy!

Peter is ever supportive and cannot quite understand how I can work to 11pm and get up at 4.30 to train! The two little ones are really good about my training and are supportive in a cute way when I race – always with words of wisdom and tactics passed to me so seriously!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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