By Mikkeli Godfree
Natalie Bates (Ton van Bemmelen) has won the opening stage of the Geelong International Women’s Tour after provisional winner Barcelona Olympic Champion Kathy Watt (Alex Melbourne University Sport) was relegated to last place for riding a non-regulation bicycle. In contrast to last year’s opening time trial where Natalie’s sister, Kate Bates was initially given the time trial win only to have it overturned thanks to a timing glitch, fortune fell in the hands of the Bates family this time around.
With Watt relegated to 87th place, youngster Alexis Rhodes (AIS) moved up to second spot in the stage whilst Alexis’ teammate Amy Gillet (formerly Amy Safe) moved up into third.
The controversy regarding Watt’s bike was a talking point throughout the day as, after the time trial Stage 1, 9 teams lodged a protest disputing the victory on the grounds that Watt’s bike didn't meet UCI specifications. As prescribed by the rules in this tour, only standard road bikes are allowed to be ridden in the time trial. The protest was lodged on the grounds that Watt’s handlebars were positioned too low and she therefore gained an aerodynamic advantage. The rules stipulate that the bottom of the handlebars are not to overlap the front wheel and it was for breach of this rule that Watt was stripped of her win.
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