Lucy Kennedy maintained her overall classification lead in a soggy end to proceedings at the National Capital Tour, with her High5 Dreamteam teammates Kendelle Hodges and Rebecca Wiasak taking a stage win apiece on the final day of racing for a clean sweep for the team.
With two races to be run on the day the kermesse was first up, early in the morning, featuring three laps of a 20 kilometre circuit around Canberra. The riders took off from the start/finish at Mt Stromlo in chilly conditions with almost no wind to speak of to break up the race. The placid conditions, combined with nature of the course on wide, open roads that the nation’s capital is renowned for saw a relatively controlled race.
High5 Dreamteam were the main team that took on the responsibility of working to keep the peloton in check and they brought back attacks from the other teams that were looking to be the aggressors.
Georgia Catterick (Roxsolt) launched the first move of the day with Mikayla Harvey (Mike Greer Homes) bridging over before the pair were swallowed up by the bunch. Other riders tried their luck in short-lived attempts, before Rebecca Stephens (CBR Women’s Racing) jumped off the front and built a lead of 20 seconds on the third lap before being caught just before the riders turned off the circuit to return to Mt Stromlo.
That prompted the launch of an attack by Lucy Bechtel (Specialized) who joined forces with Grace Anderson (CBR Racing) in a dangerous looking attack. Again High5 Dreamteam worked hard to bring the riders back and by the time they reached a rain-effected Mt Stromlo circuit it was clear that the race would end in a bunch sprint. In the dash to the line it was Kendelle Hodges (High5 Dreamteam) that paid off the efforts of her teammates, with Rebecca Wiasak coming home in second to make it a 1-2 for the team. Mikayla Harvey came home for third, finishing off impressively after attacking earlier in the stage.
After the stage Kendelle Hodges spoke to Peloton Café about how the stage panned out.
“It’s a pretty special team when your teammate can come up to you with 15-20 kilometres to go and say to you, ‘It’s your turn today”. That was really special, when ‘Beck’ (Wiasak) said ‘We’re riding for you at the finish. I had to win when she said that! She was on my wheel anyway so I knew she’d cover if anything went wrong.”
“We had Lucy Kennedy in the lead with just over a twenty second gap to Ruth Corset and with the criterium in the afternoon, we knew we just wanted to keep it together. We wanted Lucy to finish with Ruth to confirm the GC lead going into the criterium this afternoon.”
Hodges is back in Australia after racing extensively in the criterium series in the United States, coming back for the last few NRS races of the season and grabbing her first NRS victory of the season in the National Capital Tour.
“I had a really great time in America, I got a few wins and that was what I was training for this year. I’ve come back, to support the team really, and I played that role, so to be given the chance to go for the win is really nice.”
The second stage of the day was conducted in wet and miserable conditons on the Mt Stromlo criterium circuit, with the racing coming down to a will-they-won’t-they game of cat and mouse between the peloton and three rider break.
Louisa Lobigs (Holden) was the first of the aggressors, with the Amy Gillet Foundation scholarship winner springing off the front of the race, soon to be joined by Grace Anderson (Mike Greer Homes) and New Zealander Rylee McMullen. The trio worked well together, albeit with Lobigs taking the longest turns in the pace-making.
Behind the big teams of the peloton looked a bit disorganised in establishing a regular chase with Kate Perry (Specialized) doing most of the work on the front of the peloton for teammate and national criterium champion Sophie Mackay. Other than that, the pace really slackened off and coming into the final eight laps, the group of three had a 25 second lead and looked like they could well hold off the chasing pack to take the win.
Sensing the race getting away, Rebecca Wiasak tried an attack with three laps remaining only to be brought back by Sophie Mackay. Then yellow jersey wearer Lucy Kennedy went to the front, pulling a strong turn that brought the break back to within a makeable distance and Wiasak launched a stunning attack. It appeared to be essentially two sprints within the final kilometre, the first catching the leading pair within the final 400 metres before kicking again through the final corner into the finishing straight to win convincingly.
Canberra-based and clearly ecstatic to take another win on the course she has had a lot of success on in the past, Wiasak spoke after the stage to Peloton Café.
“It’s incredible to win at home! My teammate Kendelle Hodges won Stage 3 this morning and we went 1-2. I know this criterium course very well, we race here every week, so it’s so exciting to be able to throw both hands in the air.
“There was a break of three riders away and our team wasn’t represented, the High5 Dream Team had the leader’s jersey so we had to protect Lucy Kennedy from any counter attacks from Ruth Corset. Towards the end when the break was still away I had to just put my head down and attack. I was able to catch the break and I’m really excited to win.”
After successfully navigating the two stages and finishing on bunch time, Lucy Kennedy confirmed her overall victory and spoke about the win after the stage.
“I’m really really happy to win the tour, and for the High5 Dream Team to win every stage of the tour,” said Kennedy. “It was an incredibly successful tour, we cleaned up again!
“I’ve been up there in the mix all season, but haven’t quite been able to get over some of the top competitors before, so it’s been great for me to step it up a notch this tour. For the last few tours I’ve been getting really close, so I’m happy to be able to finish it off today!”
With another strong performance in the race , High5 Dreamteam proved the truth of their name, easily winning the overall National Road Series teams classification.
“I’m so happy to have been able to contribute to the continued success of the team, we’ve now one the Subaru National Road Series team’s classification in the team’s first two years. We have the best sponsors and best support of anyone, so it’s really great to be able to go out there and perform right at the top of the series.”
The other big winner was Lisen Hockings (Holden) who finished third overall in the race to secure the title of the best individual rider in the National Road Series, a remarkable achievement in her first year racing in the NRS.
“I’m pretty relieved and very grateful to the Holden Women’s Racing team supporting me,” said Hockings. “For Louisa (Lobigs) and Shannon (Malseed) to be out here riding for me when conditions were pretty miserable and it would have been nicer to have been at home was amazing. They both got out there and did brilliant rides. The whole of the Holden team have been absolutely fantastic all season.”
The self-effacing 37 year old has made her a massive impact in her debut season and has been a formidable rider in the time trials and climbs throughout the season.
“My first race was at Mersey Valley and all I wanted to do was not get dropped from the bunch, so I’m pretty overwhelmed and excited about winning the series. If Holden will keep having me come along, I’d like to keep having a crack as it’s lots of fun and I’m still learning heaps as we go along.”
With the final stage win, Rebecca Wiasak also won the sprint jersey, Jessica Pratt confirmed her promise by winning the young rider’s classification and Lisen Hockings shared the mountains jersey with Lucy Bechtel after the pair finished equal on points. Hockings would have won on countback but the judges opted to award two jerseys after Bechtel was disadvantaged by the lengthening of the course on the previous stage.