The Tour of the Goldfields held in Ballarat was the final race on the calendar of the women’s NRS. We had a Liv/giant team of three for the race, as per Canberra Tour, Bec, Justyna Lubkowski and myself. Stage one greeted us with not so greeting like weather, cold Ballarat conditions, windy and rainy, not really motivating for a 42km Crit. Juggling a warm up between hiding in the car from rain showers and a bone chilling wind didn’t make for the best prep, although trying to kit up in a ute guarantees some great pre race stretching! Don’t worry there wasn’t three of us in there Juzzy had her own car! :)
The field for the tour was one of the largest for the NRS series (possibly the biggest, I am not sure?) the normal teams present as well as some development program teams and a host of new faces lining up. The pace of the Crit was fast and saw major teams going for the sprints, there was a down pour mid race that saw the tempo slow a lot, but only because everyone was literally swimming and well you can only swim so fast really. In the end it came down to a bunch kick, the VIS wrapping things up with NRS overall leader Katrin Garfot (VIS) taking out the win from team mate Chloe McConville (VIS), followed by second in the overall NRS Ruth Corset (Pensar SPM) coming home for third and also picking up the sprint Jersey.
Stage 2 the next morning was a 20km Teams Time Trail out and back, with a left turn mid way out and right mid back :), effectively the stage possible of setting up the overall race out come. Our approach to the stage was realistic, we were simple not one of the stronger teams out there, Juzzy had a TT bike and Gear, Bec and Myself were road biking it, we knew we would lose time and there wasn’t much that could be done, apart from maybe hiding other teams bikes and hoping they’d be late to the start :). It was very windy, going easy to save the legs was not an option as time cuts were being applied for the tour, and all three of us had to come in together as the time was on the 3 rider, we didn’t have anyone to use up and spit out. Juzzy had been ridding very strong of late and this she did in the TTT, we swapped off as much as we could, though by the final 2 km we were giving our all simply to tuck in beside her as the side wind forced everyone across the ride. The contest for the placings resulted in the VIS taking 48 seconds out of Pensar SPM who where very closely followed by Holden. This result put The VIS in charge of GC, Katrin Garfoot still in 1st, followed by team mates Chloe McConville and then Jessica Mundy, Their closet rival Ruth Corset 4 in GC 50 seconds down.
Stage 3 that afternoon was to be a 53km Road Race departing and finishing from the same spot as the TTT, it headed out around the surrounding farm land in what was pretty much a large block with a fair few directional changes, on such a windy day it was looking like it would be tactical and in the gutter, with a few teams hinting the intention to mix it up. And yes it did get mixed up, what eventuated was some exciting and attacking racing, many teams out there wanting to have a go and try to get something away. The one QOM of the stage was almost picked up by Bec which would have put her in the Climbers jersey but she had to unfortunately settle for second from Cassandra Dodd (Specialized Securitor). Holden, Bicycle Super Store, Building Champions Squad and several others were very active and keen to race, I was keen to get in a move and wanting to be with anything that looked liked it may go away, but possible a little to excited by the great attacking nature of the race I in the end blew myself to the clouds in what was an instant and massive explosion that despite all my efforts saw me go backwards from the front of a strung out group to the back very fast and then right off the of the back of bunch (sorry to everyone for no warning beep beep beeps). Seeing stars and black dots all I could do was grovel home, soon though in the distance behind me saw a large bunch, thankful I waited to pick up a ride home. To my surprise and I did do a double take, first and second on GC were oddly in this bunch. We could see the front of the race ahead but ended up finishing 2 or so minutes down. From all reports the last part of the race was motoring in the gutter and had a lot chewing their stems. From the bunch a fresh new face Joanne Tralaggan (Target Trek) out sprinted Nicole Whitburn (Pensar SPM) for the win and in 3rd was Lisa Hanley (BSB). Overall there was a big change on GC, with Ruth and Katrin dropping down the leader board, however the VIS still had control of the race with Chloe McConville taking over the leaders jersey and team mate Jessica Mundy moved into Second followed by Samantha DeRiter (Holden) who moved into third. Nicole Whitburn moved into the sprint jersey, and young Specialized Securitor rider Cassandra Dodd picked up the climbers jersey. There was some great riding in this stage, and it is unfortunate that there was some negative commentary on the race due to what happened with two riders, I didn’t want to touch on it to much, but felt it necessary as what happened did change the GC so it was hard to leave out but also because some of the commentary out there was very unfair on the rest of the field, there were a lot more than two riders out there that day who well and truly raced a hard, attacking, and tactical race.
Day 3 and stage 4 was a 83km RR, 3 laps of a 25km circuit with the final lap finishing up a 2km or so climb at Kryal Castle. Bec was unable to race which just left myself and Juzzy. There were 2 sprints on the road as well as final QOM points at the finish line. Early on Bike Bug rider Sarah Roy set off on a long and gallant solo brake away, making quite a gap on the group she settled in to a nice tempo out ahead picking up the sprints along the way. In the group the minor sprint points where contested by Nicole Whitburn (Pensar) and Kate Finegan (BCS). There were also several attacks from the field throughout the race pushing to get a small group clear. Juzzy went on a solo attack and found herself between the group and Sarah for several KMs but unable to get across came back to the group. I had recovered from yesterdays explosion and thought I would again like to again try to be in a move instead of waiting till the climb so was somewhat over active but nothing stuck. The VIS controlled the overall speed of the bunch, keeping a nice tempo and Sarah within striking distance, in the end unfortunately for her it saw her lead being closed down in the final kms and she was caught pretty much on the base of the climb, leaving the field to race the climb for the win. First across the line was Katrin Garfoot, second Ruth Corset, followed by Tessa Fabry (Brezze). Final GC saw Chloe McConville taking home the crown, literally as she was crowned by the king of Kryal Castle, her team mate Jessica Muddy sealing second and Jenelle Crooks (PSR) climbed her way into third. The sprint jersey went to Nichole Whitburn and the climbers jersey to Ruth Corset.
At the end of the last race of the NRS, Katrin Garfoot (VIS) went home as the overall NRS winner for 2013, followed by Ruth Corset (Pensar) and Felicity Wardlaw (Bicycle superstore) in third.
Although we were unable to race all the races of NRS series due to work commitments as well as the financial aspect of getting to them all proving difficult, the races we did do we went into with an attitude to race and to race as hard as we could, and of course have fun, as well as this Bec also picked up some very good results along the way including 3 podiums. The series provided some great racing, the team aspect really showing through as the field sizes grow but also as the overall level continues to grow, this said, it is and is looking very positive for the future for the women’s scene within Australia.
As always thanks to Liv/giant and also to all out there who helped us out when we were in need at races! :)