The sun was high at 1pm today when the women’s race started in Geelong, the elite women headed out quickly from the start line, no doubt in a hurry to find out exactly how much those climbs would hurt, the women completed 8 laps with two difficult climbs where Emma Pooley (GBR) started as the favourite to win the circuit.
The first lap was eventful, Ang Collen (SIN) touched a wheel and went down in the middle of the road, and luckily she didn’t take anyone with her. Another crash before the riders began the climb into Barwon Boulevard, with a rider from Canada hitting a barrier and taking 5 others with her including the only rider from Saint Kitts and Nevis.
As the riders headed into the first climb on Barwon Blvd, Australia’s Carla Ryan led the women to the top of The Ridge, with Australian team mate Tiffany Cromwell was not far behind. The gap between the first and the last rider was at least 3minutes 14seconds, the women fought hard to get back to the bunch, but are also fighting hard to finish the most important race of the season.
Ruth Corset (AUS) made the choice to change her bike at the beginning of the second lap after being involved in a crash on the first lap. Bridie O’Donnell (AUS) was sitting at the back of the peloton with legend Jeannie Longo (FRA); O’Donnell looked to be struggling throughout the second lap which wasn’t good news for the Australian women.
Three laps in and rider Dinah Chan (SIN) pulled out of the course, Cromwell was doing her job as expected leading the peloton, Cromwell is an excellent domestique and can climb, making her the perfect team mate for this course. Two breakaways where attempted early on the first climb, but the peloton chased them down easily, the breakaways weren’t overly strong, nor had they been 100% committed in their breakaway, the peloton easily bought the riders back together on Pakington Street as predicted.
As the women headed onto Moorabool St to finish the third lap, they did so very fast, with Italian Eleonara Patuzzo out in front; the peloton changed very quickly with Katheryn Curi Mattis (USA) who went for the breakaway the minute the peloton was over the top of Moorabool St. Two Swiss riders pulled out at the beginning of the fourth lap as the riders made it to the top of Moorabool St.
On the fifth lap the Curi-Mattis is still out in front, she had a gap of 2:25 from the peloton, the women at the back of the peloton where seriously struggling, women still coming through the gates 5minutes after the main peloton. Emma Pooley (GBR) seemed to be in her element on all the climbs as did Cromwell, Ryan and Vicki Whitelaw (AUS). The peloton had been setting a strong pace as the peloton headed towards lap six and the pace was too much for Serene Lee (SIN) and rider Kathryn Bertine (SKN), any more time on the course and Lee and Bertine would have easily been swallowed by the peloton on the sixth lap.
Curi-Mattis looks lean on the course as she headed into the 6th lap, but began to suffer on the first climb. Amanda Spratt (AUS) and Bridie O’Donnell (AUS) where suffering as they came into the 6th lap they were over 7minutes behind the main group and pulled out in the team area on Moorabool St. Cromwell was setting the pace at the front as they headed into the first climb on Challambra Crescent.
Lap seven saw the Australian’s and the British fall back through the peloton, the Australian and the British teams did what many teams would have done today which was to use as many riders as possible to push the pace at the front and to bring back breakaways. On the 7th lap Curie Mattis got over taken by the pint sized Pooley, the world Time Trial Champion as of Wednesday’s race, the Peloton caught up to Pooley on the first climb of Challambra Crescent.
On lap eight the women pushed the pace even faster, Nicole Cooke (GBR) broke away on the descent heading towards the bottom of the hill on Mt Pleasant, stringing out the rest of the peloton on the descent. Cooke was still in the lead as they rode the rainbow bridge for the last time, Judith Arndt (GER) closing the gap on the final climb, both Arndt and Cooke worked together with less than 6km to go.
The final 4km was reminiscent of Mark Renshaw’s lead out of Mark Cavendish on the final stage of the 2009 Tour de France. With less than 4km to go the women were not chasing as the two leads rode onto the Esplanade with a slight headwind, once they hit Moorabool St it was each for their own.
First place went to Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini in the bunch sprint that we had all been talking about, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands came in second place for the second time and Emma Johansson of Sweden took 3rd place.
If the under 23’s race and Elite Women’s road race is anything to go by, we’ll see the same thing at the Elite Men’s race on Sunday 3rd of October.