By Gerard Knapp
The surprise winner of the open women's division in Saturday's 55km MTB race - one of the main events of the weekend-long 'Brindabella Challenge,' held in the picturesque mountains outside of Canberra, Australia's capital city - was local Canberra rider Rosemary Barnes.
When asked if it was the biggest win of her career, a delighted Barnes replied, "hell yeah!". The unsponsored rider attacked early in the race and was in the lead, ahead of Australian 2005 world MTB XC championships representative Niki Fisher, who flatted twice on the muddy, mountainous course. But Barnes stayed clear and posted what she hopes will be the first of more victories in the senior ranks.
Barnes, 23, recently finished her university degree and wants to see how far cycling can take her. Next month, it will take her to Melbourne to take part in the elite road criterium series, the Jayco Bay Classic, or 'Bay Crits' as they are more widely known. Barnes will be riding in the same team as reigning Women's World Cup champion (and fellow Canberra Cycling Club member), Oenone Wood, who will be one of the favourites for this criterium series. (It should be pointed out that Wood's team for the Bay Classic series is not her usual Nürnberger squad, but a special composite team formed just for this series.)
Barnes has been racing a bike since her early teens, but then illness forced her off the bike at 19 and into university. But with studies over, she is now logging about 400km per week, mainly on the road, and is hoping to attract the attention of sponsors at the Bay Crits next month.