Big teams miss out Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Neylan comes up trumps in numbers game

The elite women’s event at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was billed as a showdown between the big guns, Wiggle Down Under and Orica-AIS. Some days, the numbers game just doesn’t play out.

Giorgia Bronzini, riding for Wiggle was overwhelming favourite, in form and had runs on the board in Geelong in her victory at the 2010 World Championships. Bronzini had two teammates for company in the front group, while Orica-AIS fared the best, with a full compliment of riders pushing for the victory. Amanda Spratt, 2012 Australian Champion and recent Santos Women's Tour winner Valentina Scandolara would push eventual victor, Rachel Neylan (Building Champions) all the way but won out in the battle of wills.

Pre-race, Orica-AIS sports director Martin Barras had promised that his team would attack the race from the gun.

"We wanted to be the ones that were making the moves first to try and put ourselves out there in front of the action that could come from behind," explained Spratt. "I made my move with 15km to go solo and I thought that was a good move then Rach came across with my teammate Valentina."

Spratt, Scandolara and Neylan also had Tessa Fabry from the High5 Dream Team for company. 'The Wall', the second last climb on the 113km course would be Spratt’s undoing with Neylan powering up the 18 per cent gradient in the big ring.

"My legs were feeling pretty good," explained Neylan. "But at that point, when you know you can win a race, you don’t listen to your legs. You don’t listen to your legs at all. You just go."

The numbers game was officially over and Neylan maintained a gap on her rivals to the finish line.

Teams of five. A one-day race. Predictable doesn’t always win.

"She [Neylan] rode really smart in the first half of the race with the crosswinds," explained Spratt. "She was able to save a lot of energy whereas we used a lot more there. It’s a bit of a gamble sometimes too.

"At the end of the day I think it’s a race that we can all be really proud of and we did everything we could have done – we were just beaten by the better rider."

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