Already a national Australian champion in the mountain bike eliminator, Peta Mullens can now call herself a national road race champion. The 26-year-old was only going to race one road event in 2015 with her focus on the dirt but victory has her reconsidering her racing program for the year ahead as she looks to the 2016 Rio Olympic games.
"I always say I want someone who wins the jersey to take it over to the European peloton so it can be seen and I can't believe I won it because I had no intentions of racing the road this year so I'll just have to reassess as the Rio Olympics is my goal," Mullens told reporters, including Cyclingnews, after the race. "I just happened to have had [coach] Mark Fenner train me up for this time of year for national rounds on the mountain bike and it seems to correlate quite well to the race scene."
Mullens was the only rider able to follow the race winning move by Rachel Neylan on the ninth of ten laps around Buninyong. The two riders acknowledged their best chance for victory was to work together and hold off a chasing peloton but with every metre the duo stayed together, the odds of Mullens winning in a sprint increased and bookies paid out.
"The winning move was pretty much with a lap and half to go when Neylan kicked off the bunch had no one was really doing much so I thought now's the time to bridge across to her," Mullens said. "I thought we'd be a pretty strong duo and I think that was really it. A sprint's a sprint so the winning move was when I went across the Rachel. I saw an opportunity and I can’t really believe it. I am a mountain biker but of all the national titles, I'd prefer to win this."
Discussions regarding Mullens' first race in the green and gold jersey were likely to start very soon although a return to Wiggle-Honda who she rode for in 2014 appears unlikely. Wiggle-Honda's team manager Rochelle Gilmore launched a new women's NRS team this week, known as High5 Dream Team, which Mullens could potentially guest ride for to show off her national stripes.
"I am sure I'll have discussions with certain people and Wiggle-Honda have always been good to be but unfortunately this year I am partnered up with SRAM so Wiggle's not necessarily a partner that they want to be with," she said. "I am sure I can have discussions with some people and we can work out something that works for both of us."
While mountain biking is her focus for Rio, Mullens added that if possible, she would prefer to be heading to the games to race two disciplines.
"Last year I made a phone call to Marin Barras [Australian national selector] and I said I want to go to Rio to race mountain bike and on the road and he pretty much laughed at me and said it’s not possible and we don’t really support that sort of thing. I thought well then if I am not going to be supported in that way then I am just going for the mountain bike because that’s my passion. I’d like to think I have the talent to be there on the road but I need that support as well."
With her eye on Rio, Mullens' next target race in 2015 is the national mountain bike championships in March with the XCO her primary goal.
"I'd like to run away with the national title at the mountain bike championships but Bec Henderson is such a strong competition and she is top 10-15 in the world so that's always a big ask," she said.
With national rounds to come before the Bright-hosted championships, Mullens will at least get to wear one of her current national jerseys.