Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) emerged triumphant in nationals elite women?s road race today, jumping clear of Ruth Corset after the pair had gone clear on the second last lap then proving strong enough to keep the chasing riders at bay and contest the sprint between them. After 10 laps of the course, and 102 kilometres of racing, it was fitting that the race be decided by the two riders that had the courage to attack with the race still in the balance.
The race started slow with the first three laps being conducted without a great deal of attacking, Justine Barrow (Boss Racing Team) trying to get free, but without anyone going with her she was quickly brought back. Eventually the early break was formed, with Louisa Lobigs (Holden Women?s Cycling) initiating the move, where she was immediately joined by Sarah Roy (Orica-AIS) as they looked to cover the moves. The two steadily grew their advantage to three minutes, and the teams behind in the peloton were happy to let it hover around that mark. The majority of the work was being done by the Total Rush Hyster, and in particular Bridie O?Donnell were the main team doing the work to keep the break in check.
This stalemate continued until 30 kilometres to go, where the pace got ramped up, steadily shedding riders off the back of the main bunch. The gap began to shrink rapidly as well, with the advantage slimmed from 2 minutes to 40 seconds within a lap, with it becoming clear that the break would soon be caught. That prompted an attack from the peloton, with Ruth Corset, Amanda Spratt, Kimberley Wells (Colavita/Bianchi) and Brodie Chapman (Holden Women?s Cycling). Chapman only went a little way with the move, but the other three bridged across to the early break, and the quintet worked well together to maintain their lead over the main bunch, starting the final lap with a 42 second advantage.
Mid-way up the climb, it was Ruth Corset that forced the pace, with only Amanda Spratt able to follow as the 38 year-old mother of two attacked with some verve. The two continued up the climb, but the peloton had them within sight on the long straight of Mt Buninyong Rd. There were surprisingly no attacks on the climb, but over the top Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS) made an aggressive move, with Lauren Kitchen (Hitech Products) jumping on the wheel immediately and Rachel Neylan (Orica-Greenedge) following her. It looked like Orica-AIS had lost confidence in Spratt?s ability with Garfoot and Neylan working initially with Kitchen, but after they had brought the gap down to below 20 seconds, the two OGE women decided to leave it all for Kitchen to do in the chase. Spratt had stopped swapping turns with Corset, so it was essentially one on one in the final kilometres, with the Orica-AIS riders all getting a free ride to the line. Kitchin worked hard, but as the front two went under the final kilometre banner, it was clear that they would fight out the sprint amongst them.
Ruth Corset was on the front into the final kilometre, and she stayed on the front, with the threat of the three chasers joining very real, and that allowed Spratt to catch her by surprise by launching an early sprint, establishing a gap quickly and holding off Corset to take the win. Rachel Neylan followed in 2 seconds later for third, with Garfoot 4th and Kitchen 5th.
Amanda Spratt was happy, and celebrated hard with her teammates just after the finish. She spoke after the race, ?Having Sarah Roy out there in that early break was great for us, it meant we could not panic, sit in and relax. When I got across to Sarah she said ?What can I do?? She gave me every last bit of energy she had, and it was up to me to finish it off.?
Ruth Corset, former triathlete, 38-year old mother of two and NRS reigning champion was very pleased with her second place in the race. She spoke to Peloton Caf? after the stage. ?All day my teammates did an awesome job on the front and I?m just so happy to finish second. In the end I had to lead it out, as I didn?t want the chance of her teammates catching us. In the past, I?ve made the mistake of playing my cards too early, so today I was patient and it played out well. I was pretty confident in my sprint, but I had to make the choice whether to sit up and wait for her teammates to come across or work and lead her out. I?d rather finish 2nd than further back.?
In the Under 23 women it was Jenelle Crooks (Specialized Women?s Racing) who just pipped Jess Mundy (High 5 Dream Team) for the victory, with one place separating the two as they sprinted from the third group on the road. Ellen Skeritt (Al? Cippolini) completed the podium for third. Under 23 champion Jenelle Crooks spoke with Peloton Caf?.
?It was my last chance as an Under 23, so I really wanted it. The bike race itself? it was a slow race and it all came back together and went to a sprint, which isn?t ideal for me. Jess Mundy is a good sprinter, but I put my head down with 200 metres to go and somehow I pulled it out.?
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