Herald Sun Tour 2009
Honda Hybrid Women's Tour
Stage 2 - Whitelaw powers to victory on Stage 2 TT at Honda Hybrid Tour
Geelong Waterfront TT, 10km
Vicki Whitelaw, HP-Pinarello, lived up to pre-race expectations by winning Stage 2 of the Honda Hybrid Women’s Tour, in a time of 15 minutes, 34.92 seconds. Whitelaw also secured the overall leader’s jersey for the Tour. With one stage remaining, she now sits 4 seconds ahead of Amber Halliday, MB Cycles, who finished second in the time trial, just 2.07 seconds behind the winner. Carly Light, National Talent ID team, finished a strong third and was the only other rider to beat 16 minutes on the demanding course. Light is a former track and field athlete and like Halliday, is new to cycling. She completed the course, after torrential rain conditions had abated, this enabled her to go a little faster on the tight corners of the course than those who rode in the wet.
Conditions could not have been worse for the women. Fifteen minutes into the time trial, the sky darkened and the heavens opened, just as Lauren Kitchen (HP-Pinarello) was in the start gate. For five minutes, the riders had to negotiate the course in poor visibility and dangerous conditions. The rain stopped and the roads dried out for the later riders, those higher up on General Classification.
The U19 competition is down to a couple of riders, Kitchen, is sitting 6.40 seconds ahead of Alexandra Carle (National Talent ID) as they head into the final stage.
MB Cycles will have to work hard to take the race title, via Amber Halliday, on Stage 3.
Vicky Whitelaw, (HP Pinarello), who has just come off a two week break after competing at the World Road Championships in Switzerland, gave it everything. She had the benefit of feedback about the course and conditions from her team mate Lauren Kitchen, who had ridden earlier, albeit in much harder conditions. Whitelaw reflected that, “It was a bit of a shock to the system having only had two weeks off after Worlds. I had no expectations, there were a number of riders like Amber Halliday, who is really strong, Carlee Taylor and a number of other riders who were in contention, I did not think I was favourite by any means,” she added that “The course was difficult and really tricky in the conditions. I was a little hesitant yesterday about the course and my form, but I am getting better each day so I am very happy.”
Amber Halliday, (MB Cycles), a former rower, who only started racing in 2008 as a result of selection through the Talent ID programme, rode a creditable 15 minute 36.99 seconds for the 10km, technical course. “Coming from South Australia, and being in a drought for so long, I have not had that many opportunities to get experience in the wet. I was looking forward to the challenge and in the end, it was wet roads but dry [skies], at least it wasn’t raining,” said Halliday. “I had a good chance to go over the course on Wednesday, even though it is really short, I like to ride longer courses, it had a good mixture of climbing, false flat and technical corners, that made it a really good course actually,” she added.
Carly Light (NTID), was a little surprised but pleased by her performance, “The course was pretty difficult and very bumpy,” said Light. “There were lots of obstacles and hazards on the course which meant I had to be cautious while trying to go fast as well. I was relieved the rain had stopped but very pleased with how I rode.”
As part of the Talent ID programme, Light is enjoying being involved in cycling, “I have been riding for a little over a year now. As a junior I competed a lot in Athletics and Cross Country running and I felt like a change and looked to try to get some inspiration back. I am enjoying riding and happy with today.”
Lauren Kitchen (HP Pinarello) believes she can hold onto the jersey but it will not be the focus for the team, “Hopefully we can hold the lead in the U19 competition through to the end of tomorrow, but our major focus will be the stage and the overall race lead. If we come away with the U19 jersey too, that will be a bonus.”
Rochelle Gilmore (HP Pinarello), the race leader after stage 1, finished 39th on the second stage, which resulted in a move of the overall honours to team-mate Whitelaw. “It is unbelievably going well for the team, it is all going to plan. HP Pinarello chose this team for their different strengths and goals. I achieved my goal winning stage 1, Vicki got her goals today winning stage 2 and Lauren is sitting in first place in the U19 competition, so she is close to achieving hers. With one day to go we are hopeful of pulling off a clean sweep.” Gilmore is using this event as additional training before she heads back overseas to compete on the track at the Manchester World Cup event for Australia."I am using this event to prepare for the track and then the Oceania Games, Australia have chosen myself and Alexis Rhodes to go to that event. Right after that is the Melbourne track World Cup and then I have my break for 10 days before the 2010 season really kicks off. This has been an extremely long season, but a race like this adds to the motivation to keep going a little longer."
Honda sponsorship for the Honda Hybrid Women's tour event is an important investment in women's racing, Gilmore reflected on how important this is for the current tour and the future of women's racing, should Honda continute to be involved. "It is difficult to express the riders appreciation to Mark [Higgins - PR Manager Honda Australia], to let them know how appreciative we all are for the support they are giving to this event and what they are doing for Australia Women's cycling. I have always tried to express to companies in Australia that you only have to do a little bit and we will be so pleased. We need just a little bit of help from a lot of companies, the Football and the Tennis take so much for a little return, but for us, we ask for a tiny proportion and we are so happy. The smallest of contributions that they provide make a huge difference. You can see here we have nearly 80 women racing at a high level. The three of us [referring to the HP Pinarello team] have just come back from Europe where we dominated there and the home based riders are pushing us to our limits. This show the standard is here, the numbers are here. All we need is for more companies like Honda to come on board. They have put their hand up and they are enthusiastic. They are not doing this because they have to, they are doing it because they have a passion for the sport and supporting women specifically. to see them here and how happy they are is just fantastic. I hope they realised how much female cycling appreciate their support."
Amber Halliday (MB Cycles) played down their chances of wining the overall going into the final stage, “The street circuit is not my forte, I am just aiming to get to the finish but we will see.”
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