Maria Madigan won the women's race at the UCI Gravel World Series Nannup round and, while it may have been a debut victory in the new series, crossing the line at the 125km Seven gravel race in Western Australia was familiar territory.
It was the third edition in a row where the 32-year-old had taken victory. Madigan was again working hard to keep ahead of Darcie Richards, who races on the road with Velofit. The 21-year-old took second place behind Madigan for a second year running while Steff Van Amerongen came third overall in the women’s category, also taking first in the 40-44 women’s category.
"I love riding down here in Nannup, it's a really special place to me," said Madigan in an interview after coming over the line first. "I love riding gravel and to bring it home three times in a row is just the cherry on top."
Madigan went out hard early to ensure she kept the upper hand on Richards, who finished within two minutes of her time in 2021. She hung onto a fast group, who were pulling turns out the front and by the Lewana checkpoint, 68km into the mixed start race, the live timing showed a gap of of over four minutes and by the Spur, around 100km in, the gap had doubled.
Still, that didn’t mean it was an easy run to the finish line in a race which enjoyed fine weather conditions, but with some earlier rain in the Blackwood Valley delivering some slippery patches. However, it also bought the advantage of settled gravel and faster descents.
"I really kind of burnt all my matches doing it," said Madigan of her efforts to carve out a big lead in the first half of the race. "In the last, probably 20 to 30 km, I was just absolutely cooked. You know when you start counting out your pedal strokes and go ‘just do ten, just do ten’ I went too far."
Plus, despite the race being familiar territory for Madigan, one thing neither she or her pursuer, Richards, had experienced before was the final climb. It was a new addition called the Hideaway, delivering 2.4km with an average gradient of 7.1% and maximum of 22%. C
Clearly it felt every bit of that and more as riders tackled it with nearly 115km of racing in the legs and 3,000m of vertical ascent. Madigan didn’t even have a hint of hesitation in naming that final climb, one of ten in total, as the hardest point of the race.
"I've never seen so many people, really good cyclists, pushing a bike before - people just getting off and just pushing because it was so hard and so late in the race when you were absolutely wrecked already."
But at just over ten kilometres down the road was the finish at Nannup - a town which has a name that stems from a word in the Noongar people's language meaning stopping place.
Madigan came through the line nearly 12 minutes before Richards, delighted to have not only taken the third win, but this time having done it in a Gravel World Series race.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|3||Steff Van Amerongen||0:22:25|
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