1st Wellington World Cup - CDM New Zealand, March 6, 2005
My Dad is an avid rugby fan, so from a very young age I have watched in awe as the All Blacks let rip with the Maori Haka before every international match. Yesterday in Wellington a group of locals in traditional dress laid down the challenge for the women's peloton before the start of the second round of the world cup. I felt very privileged to have this ceremony performed for me before a race - I reckon my Dad was a tad jealous when I told him about it on the phone afterwards. I also reckon the Europeans were a bit perplexed by the whole event - especially the glaring eyes and tongues.
Then it was on. 20 laps of a 6.2km circuit with two climbs and 13 corners - with the World Cup lead up for grabs and a lot of kiwis wanting a win on home soil there was a plenty of aggression in the air. My job was made clear in the team meeting the day before - go with the break. I missed the bloody thing and before we knew it there were seven riders down the road and at one stage they managed to get nearly a four minute break. Miho Oki, Katie Brown, Tania Hennes, Silvia Valsecchi, Michelle Hyland and Johanna Buick. The course was so hard, and the race still had a long way to go, so we hedged our bets and trusted that it would only be a matter of time before the wind, the hills and the kilometres took their toll on the breakaway group. Anche Wichmann and Madeleine Lindberg had great rides - both getting much further through the race than I think they expected to, especially with the bout of "bad stomach" Madeleine suffered most of the week and the wounds Anche incurred during last week's World Cup event. I was sitting in the bunch cursing myself for not doing my job - especially because I was actually feeling good on the bike for the first time in months.
A few teams were obviously starting to get nervous and as soon as the pace increased we put over 30 seconds into the front group in half a lap - their days were obviously numbered. The Queensland Academy of Sport team were doing a lot of chasing, and to their credit Jenny MacPherson, who was riding with them for the week, managed fifth place. The Ton Van Bemmelen team were pretty active as well, and in a very short time we had the front group in sight. At this stage of the race for me it was a lot of getting dropped and somehow making it back to the peloton. I would bust myself to get to the front and try to achieve something before getting dropped again. I was pleased with my ride, though - Helen Kelly told me I looked like a different rider than I did a week ago. Hopefully things are coming together. Then Judith [Arndt] attacked for the second of many times and there was no more getting back on for me.
This was a series of onslaughts that came not only from Judith and Trixi but from Nat Bates, Sara Carrigan and Susanne Ljungskog. The race was splintering and some big names were suffering. Mirjam Melchers pulled out of the race with about two laps to go, and Rochelle Gilmore had survived much longer than I think she expected but was showing signs of cracking. Good ride from her and her AIS support crew none the less - defending that jersey is no easy task. I haven't really done a great job of investigating exactly what transpired in the closing stages of the race and all of my team mates are currently sleeping on a plane right now but as far as I can gather it was the final attack from Ton Van Bemmelen rider Susanne De Goede that broke the field. Buitenpoort-Flexpoint rider Linda Serup managed to go with Susanne and with the world champion chasing with everything she had left they were strong enough to stay away. Susanne sprinted and won by a few bike lengths - about 20 seconds in front of Oenone's group. A fourth place for her left her in the jersey though, so not really a bad day for Nürnberger.
We go to bike races to win but I was still really proud to be part of Nürnberger yesterday. It didn't go to plan but I really think we were beaten by a very strong girl on the day - we gave everything and have come away with the jersey. Not a bad end to a week in Windy Wellington, and apart from gusts that threatened to blow us all off the road, this has been a great week The Tour and World Cup organisers had some teething problems, but the absolute hospitality and dedication to the bike race was second to none. We Australians could learn a few things from the Kiwis, and let's hope we are all back in Wellington next year.