Australian National Road Championships 2011
Road Race - Alexis Rhodes finally wins National road title.
Buninyong, 102km (10 laps of a circuit)
Alexis Rhodes (Garmin-Cervelo) finally won her first road championship title in a close sprint ahead of Carla Ryan (Garmin-Cervelo) and Joanne Hogan (Jayco VIS).
The temperatures at the start of the race were in the 30's, by the time the race at the half way point, the wind had picked up and the southerly cool change had reached the Buninyong course. 87 riders started the event and within 100m the bunch was down to 86, due to a clash of wheels on the first corner. This was due in part to the eagerness of the riders to get to the climb at the front of the bunch and nervousness in the bunch. Katherine Baker (QLD) was forced to withdraw with a damage derailler.
As the riders climbed Mount Buninyong for the first time, Carlee Taylor (Tibco) was on the front of the bunch closely followed by Vicki Whitelaw (Lotto Honda) and Delphine Astier (VIC). The rest of the bunch were riding tempo behind. The second time up the climb, Taylor and Whitelaw were on the front again, however this time the bunch were strung out behind.
With 26km of the race completed, a break had formed with nine riders, Whitelaw started it and Taylor followed with Tiffany Cromwell (Lotto Honda), Kirsty Broun (Virgin Blue), Alex Carle (Jayco AIS), Annabel Luxford (NSW), Rhodes, Amanda Spratt (Jayco AIS) and Hogan. They group quickly formed an advantage over the chase group led by Ryan.
With three laps completed, Broun a traditional sprinter, was unable to stay with the lead group as they pushed the pace up the climb and she climbed off in the feed zone.
The bunch, while not going fast enough to catch the leaders was doing damage, as riders fell back each time they hit the climb.
By the time the chase group hit the top of the climb for the fourth time, the leaders had 46 seconds and the chasing group were down to 21 riders.
Amber Halliday (SA) attacked away from the chasing group and tried to bridge across to the leaders. She managed to get within 1 minute 47 seconds but could not get any closer.
With five laps to go, the gap to the leaders and the main chase was 3 minutes 13 seconds. Ryan was on the front at they reached the top of the climb and launched a chase with Bridie O'Donnell (Jayco VIS), Trudy van der Stratten (Bicisport) and Judith Arndt (HTC Highroad). They could not get away, it wasn't long however before a chase group did form. Arndt attacked and caught Halliday. She was joined with O'Donnell, Ruth Corset (Jayco AIS) the 2010 Australian road champion and Ryan.
The gap to the leaders had started to come down and by the time the chasers climbed Mt Buninyong for the sixth time the gap was down to 2 minute 24 seconds.
At the front of the race, Hogan, Cromwell and Whitelaw were working hard to maintain the lead but it was coming down quickly as a result of the efforts from the chasers behind.
After six laps the gap to the leaders was 1 minute 20 seconds. The chase however was down to three riders, Ryan, Arndt and O'Donnell.
Corset was trying hard to bridge across to the three on the climb. By they time they reached the top however. Arndt had attacked and only Ryan had managed to go with her albeit slightly off the pace, forcing Arndt to slow a little to enable them to work together in the chase.
With three laps remaining the the leading group had split and only five riders remained, Light, Whitelaw, Cromwell, Hogan and Taylor
Ryan and Arndt were at 22 seconds with Corset and O'Donnell at 45 seconds.
After 81km of racing, Ryan and Arndt caught the leaders and a group of seven formed. Arndt tried to attack on the climb but her move was covered by Cromwell and Whitelaw. At the bell the group were all together but the pace was high. A casualty of the pace was Taylor who dropped off the pace just before the feed zone.
At the base of the final time up the climb, Arndt tried again to get away but could not. On the climb, Ryan moved to the front with Arndt, Rhodes and Hogan. Whitelaw and Cromwell paid the price for the work they had done to form the break and they lost contact with the leaders.
Arndt kicked on the climb and Ryan and Hogan went with her. Rhodes struggled to keep in touch but worked had to keep the leaders within reach.
With 3km to go Ryan was on the front with Arndt and Hogan. They slowed a little to watch each other which enabled the powerful Rhodes to catch them on the decent.
With 150m to go the four riders were all in a line sprinting for the line. Arndt looked like she was a little in front but a surge from Rhodes and Ryan with Hogan on her wheel in last 50m ended the chances of Arndt becoming the first international to win the Australian Championships.
On the line, Ryan pointed to signal that Rhodes had won the race and raised her arms in celebration of her team mates victory.
Ryan and Rhodes both former medalists in the time trial are forced to miss riding the event on Tuesday due to the timing of their team training camp. This is undoubably a huge blow to both riders particularly given their current form.
Alexis Rhodes (SA-Garmin-Cervelo) was overwhelmed with her win in the elite Australian Road Championships “I won,” screemed Rhodes as she crossed the line ahead of her professional team mate Carla Ryan (QLD) who will join her in Garmin Cervelo for the 2011 season.
Rhodes is honoured to be wearing the Australian jersey in Europe, “For any rider being able to wear your national jersey in Europe is pretty special and something to be proud of. I am ecstatic, I never thought it would happen,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes had considered giving up the sport at the end of 2010 after
disappointing performances in her mind at the Commonwealth Games and the
World Championships but after a late offer of a professional contract from
Garmin Cervelo, Rhodes reconsidered, “I did not have a good season
last year and I had an OK commonwealth games but I was really disappointed
with worlds. I finished just inside the top 20 in the time trail and 4th
in the time trial ant the comm games which was ok. I didn’t do so well
in the road race at worlds. I didn’t have any good offers for 2011 and I
didn’t want to go to overseas and be in a small team. In November,
I got an offer from Garmin Cervelo which gave me renewed interest
in riding again. In 2011 they have given me the opportunity to impress and
hopefully I can reward them for having faith in me,” added Rhodes.
Rhodes had considered giving up the sport at the end of 2010 after disappointing performances in her mind at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships but after a late offer of a professional contract from Garmin Cervelo, Rhodes reconsidered, “I did not have a good season last year and I had an OK commonwealth games but I was really disappointed with worlds. I finished just inside the top 20 in the time trail and 4th in the time trial ant the comm games which was ok. I didn’t do so well in the road race at worlds. I didn’t have any good offers for 2011 and I didn’t want to go to overseas and be in a small team. In November, I got an offer from Garmin Cervelo which gave me renewed interest in riding again. In 2011 they have given me the opportunity to impress and hopefully I can reward them for having faith in me,” added Rhodes.
Rhodes was part of a final six rider break that included Ryan, Judith Arndt (GER), Carlee Taylor, Joanne Hogan (VIC) [bronze medalist] and Vicki Whitelaw (Lotto Honda). On the final climb Whitelaw was dropped and then Taylor. Rhodes had to battle to get back on, “Judith was really putting me in the gutter, I’ m not half the bike rider she is and I dropped off. Then they [Arndt, Hogaqn and Ryan] stated looking at each other which gave me the chance to jump back on.”
Coming into the final kilometre the four riders were together. “I had to be really patient, it was a really fast finish and I knew I had to wait and wait before I sprinted. I managed to get there for the win,” smiled Rhodes.
Ryan celebrated Rhodes win across the line, “Carla Ryan and I had discussed that one of us had to win today. To run one, two is unreal. I made sure that I got in the early break because Carla is a much better climber than me. To have her there and me in the break was great. There was no pressure on her and she managed to come up to us. I knew that I didn’t have to drive the break because she was coming up behind, it was fantastic and perfect for us,” commented Rhodes.
Carla Ryan (QLD- Garmin Cervelo) had chased really hard in the final few laps to bridge to the leaders and celebrated the one two for her team, “I am so happy for Alex. She rode an amazing race. To stay up front all day then come away with the win is incredible. I have something left for the sprint like that is amazing and super special. For her to win her first national jersey is so special,” said Ryan.
Ryan had celebrated across the line, “Alex said get on my wheel and we knew we had to take it late. She was on the left and I was on the right and we just went for it. I knew she had it on the line and I was so happy for her,” added Ryan.
Hogan was the silver medalist in the criterium and and targeted the road race as her main goal, “The crit silver was a complete shock so to come away with two medals is awesome,” added Hogan.
Carlee Taylor (ACT-Team Tibco) was a key driving force in the break of 8 riders and won the U23 title and queen of mountain prize, “I had done the hard work and I was pretty pumped for this race. I thought given the warm conditions I would end up in the winning move but it wasn’t to be. I am excited and so happy to come away with a win in my last year as U23. When I left the U19 I finished with a national title, so to do it again as I leave the U23, I could not be happier,” said Taylor.
Lauren Kitchen (NSW) won the bronze medal after her gold medal in the criterium this week. “We had two team mates up the road, we were really unlucky we had 3 punctures, Ruth [Corset], [Amanda] Spratty and Alex [Carle]. When we realised there was still a medal up for grabs, we were keen to try to get one of us up there. Alex [Carle] still being an U23, sacrificed herself for the Jayco AIS team and I managed to get across the line for a medal. It is always good to come away with a medal at these championships. It is a good way to finish the last few days of racing, ” said Kitchen.
Tiffany Cromwell and Vicki Whitelaw (Lotto Honda) both realised that there attempts to create the break and maintain it had taken its toll but the time the race had reached the crucial point.
Cromwell, was frustrated and tired at the end of the road race,"We knew that we had to break up the race and we did that. I gave it everything. I know i still have a lot to learn and each year I develop as a rider," said Cromwell.
Whitelaw was a awarded the sprint jersey after her efforts in the break but this could not take away from the disappointment of missing the final stage of the race, "I gave it everything today and could not have done anymore. I paid for all the work to create the break but it was the only way open up the race away from pure climbers," said Whitelaw.
Arndt was very frustrated with missing out on the win, she came to the race with great form, “I could not believe it someone had thrown tacks on the road and I punctured. That isn’t very nice. I came here to win the race so I am disappointed I didn't,” added Arndt.
Photos Click on any image to enlarge >>[2011_ChangedCopy/Gallery2011/01_AusNatRoadChamps/RR/PhotoIndex.html]
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