South Australian, Alexis Rhodes powered to victory in Cycling SA criterium
The 25-year-old former National Criterium Champion, Alexis Rhodes (SASI/Trak Cycles) won the Cycling SA criterium ahead of Amanda Spratt (AIS) and Amber Halliday (MB Cycles).
Raced over 45 minutes, the fast Norwood criterium circuit put on a great spectacle for the crowds of spectators lining the streets. The criterium benefited from its link to the Tour Down under and some great sponsorship and support from Cycling SA and Exact Mining, a local company.
The field of 32, included some of the top criterium riders in Australia. It included Rhodes a three time Australian Criterium champion, 2008 and 2009 champion Kirsty Broun and the reigning champion Carly Light.
Carlee Taylor (AIS) and Liz Young (MB Cycles) tried to get away first, but their move was quickly closed down by Tiffany Cromwell (SASI/Tack Cycles).
Rhodes was awarded the most aggressive rider at the end of the race and she deserved the award. She started to attack the bunch, after 4 laps of the 800m circuit, every time her moves were marked by a member of the AIS team.
Despite a number of attempts by the AIS team to control the race by sending riders up the road in attacks, their attempts were thwarted by the team of Rhodes and MB Cycles.
The decisive move, came just before the half way stage of the race. Rhodes attacked as the bunch crossed the start/finish line and the only rider to react was Spratt. The pair held a 50m advantage over the chasers for a couple of laps before local rider and current time trial champion, Amber Halliday (MB Cycles) used all of her newly acquired time trial skills, to bridge across the gap the make a lead group of three. After 25 minutes of the 45 minute criterium, Peta Mullens (Apollo) gave it everything and cross to the three leaders.
As soon as Mullens joined the leaders, Rhodes attacked again. Halliday reacted first and closed the gap bringing the four back together again.
With five minutes remaining, the four leaders held a 16 second gap to the chasing bunch, that we led by Sarah-Jeanne Fraser (Melville Fremantle CC).
Rhodes continued to attack the leaders, each time it was Spratt, who closed the gap. With 300m to go Spratt attacked. She almost took out the win, had it not been for a last ditch effort from Rhodes right on the line. Halliday held on for third ahead of a tired Mullens.
Alexis Rhodes (SASI/Trak Cycles) showed why she has been the Australian Criterium champion three times. She dominated the race powered over the line for the win, "It was the worlds slowest and most painful sprint ever," said Rhodes. "I am not a sprinter but I really wanted that win," she added.
"The racing has been incredible. I have to say a big thank you to Exact Mining, for putting up such a great prize fund [$15000]. It is always great to race in front of a home crowd, my parents, boyfriend and everyone are here, so it is really good," added Rhodes
Amanda Spratt (AIS) was a little bit disappointed not to have pulled off the win, "I am little bit upset," said Spratt. "Alex was like super woman out there today. She was driving it, attacking it all the time. I think she was probably the strongest rider out there. I tried to play my cards early and hit her up the back straight before the finish but she was too strong and got me by the smallest margin on the line," added Spratt.
Spratt is returning to racing after most of 2009 spent recovering from a knee injury, "I am coming back strong, it is just getting better and better now. I still have a long way to go, but it is exciting to be at this level already. I know there is still a lot of improvement left," reflected Spratt.
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