Jayco Bay Classic - NE, Australia, January 5-9, 2005
Day one in Williamstown had been a good start with a fourth place for me, finishing between the main field and the break of three riders (Oenone Wood, Skye Lee Armstrong and Kate Nichols). Skye had done well, attacking from the start and then sprinting confidently against Oenone to win.
Day two saw an impressive show of force from Oenone. She finished solo on the tough course at Port Arlington, with slippery, wet conditions on off camber corners. Kate Nichols had again been in the winning break of three, but a crash saw her out for the lap where Oenone put the pressure on midway through the criterium. Kate still finished second ahead of the main field, the sprint for third won by the Victorian Jenny MacPherson. I was planning a late attack... but left it all too late as '5 to go' turned in to the bell lap! It wasn't a great day for me, but a good reminder not to let the race go up the road.
Day three was the national criterium championships, down on the waterfront hot-dog circuit at Geelong. Last year, I won the race on this circuit, and I was keen to race well. The race was fast, with lots of attacks from various riders, all covered by sprinters hoping for a bunch kick (particularly Oenone). Rochelle was attentive and quick to go with the moves. I was disappointed that there were not better timed attacks - counter moves to strong attacks, but it seemed to be a night for the sprinters. Coming into the final corner a few riders showed their complete lack of bike handling skills. I didn't see exactly what was coming from behind - but it was ugly and fast and out of control. I was knocked to the ground from a messy collision on the right. One of the bikes involved flew through the air and smashed into the windscreen of a car parked just off the circuit. These girls have not quite worked out how to judge gaps and what speed to approach a corner with any hope of getting around it (I will see to it that they are educated over the next two races). I have a nasty bruise and a bit of gravel rash on my right side and a lump on my left chin that I have no idea about. I was in a mega-foul mood and very disappointed to be brought down when I was in a decent position coming into the last 300m of the race. I had no broken bones or serious injuries and luckily my beautiful new Cervelo was not damaged - which is always important! (bruises and gravel rash heal faster than broken equipment!)
Day four was at the Botanic Gardens circuit at Geelong. A break of five riders got up the road just before the first sprint, 15 minutes into the 45 minute race. The pace had been on, and I was suffering a little when it went. Amanda Spratt (NSW), Oenone Wood, Emma Rickards, Jenny MacPherson and Belinda Goss were the five who managed to hold the gap to the finish, with Jenny MacPherson taking the win. The next bunch of between 6 and 10 cyclists all blocked well for team mates up the road - so a rather negative 'not chase group' rolled around with no serious hope of getting back in the race. I tried to bridge across at one point - but did not have enough juice in the tank to really power on the tough circuit.
The last day was in at the flat Docklands hotdog circuit in Melbourne. Again it was fast, and with a few spectacular crashes for good measure. I had assistance on the sidelines in getting the full details of the view from the spectator. Quite incredible stories. I only heard the noise of the crashes behind me (luckily), but the visual was supposedly remarkable! Helen Kelly was attacked by the tram lines that crossed part of the circuit along the finishing straight. Somehow, as she was riding in a straight line, her bike came out from under her, and she came down in the middle of the field, but her bike slid out "like a downhill skier sliding into the spectator barricades on the ski slopes". It was particularly remarkable as three spectators were standing on the wrong side of the barriers, and were cleaned up by Helen and her bike at 40km/hr! At least one spectator had to be taken away in an ambulance!
The other notable crash was where a rider punctured and just hooked right into the pits, taking out the rider behind her who was (quite reasonably) expecting the rider ahead to continue along the back straight with the rest of the pack. There was a spectacular panic for a spare wheel - with no consideration for the poor rider who had been sent over the bars and into the gutter by the other rider's total panic, inexperience and stupidity. The rider who had punctured then had every man and his dog out in the middle of the circuit (in thongs with riders squeezing past him) to give her a good push start a couple laps later to rejoin the field.
All this excitement kept the crowd entertained. I had a stab, but had countered a move attacking just before the final sprint which still had points up for the green jersey competition. I held the strong chase off for a few laps, (good time trial practice), but conceded a lap before the sprint.
Oenone rode well to take out the final criterium in the sprint, and win the series easily, many points ahead of the next rider overall.
So the National Championship Time Trial and Road Race are next on the agenda, in just a few days, over in Adelaide. I'm looking forward to the action there! Plenty more stories I can guarantee... Pain and suffering (at least for myself) I am certain of. It will be some good hard racing.