Lisen Hockings (Holden Womens Racing) emerged the overall winner of Sam Miranda King Valley in a nail-biting final stage which saw Kate McIroy (Specialized) take the stage win and the battle for bonus seconds leaving riders and team managers reaching for their calculators to work out the positions in relation to the general classification rivals.
Coming into the stage it was Hockings who held the lead she got on the first stage in the time trial, with Rebecca Wiasak 6 seconds behind after her stage win the previous day.
Wiasak quickly went to work whittling that lead down, claiming the 5 second bonus at the first intermediate sprint after a long leadout from Holden and High5, moving her up to just a single second off the virtual race lead in the process.
The race then headed to the hills with the long, two-part climb of Ryan’s Gap followed by flat, then two circuits of the Glenrowan loop where the bunch would tackle the shorter and steeper Taminick Gap.
Up the Ryan’s Gap climb, riders were getting dropped off the back of the race as the favourites waited to sprint it out for the top of the climb. Hockings was lucky to keep her bike upright just a few hundred metres shy of the summit but broke a spoke and couldn’t contest the QOM as Corset, Kennedy, Pratt, McIlroy and Fasnacht took the time bonuses (8,4,3,2 and 1 seconds) at the summit which would be repeated for all the climbs on the day. Miranda Griffiths quickly swapped a wheel with Hockings before rejoining her on the descent to lead her safely back to the bunch.
Once through the descent, the peloton slowed in pace, allowing a number of dropped riders to catch back on. The riders clearly had the Glenrowan loop on their minds, where they would have to tackle the steep Taminicks Gap climb on two occasions, before a 15 kilometres flat run back to the finish.
The pace was very fast on the first ascent of Taminick, with a group of 6 riders attacking up the climb, with Kennedy, Corset, Fasnacht, Hockings and Pratt taking the time bonuses at the top. The riders worked to stay away to the next sprint point, which was only 5 kilometres further up the road. The sprint was won by Corset with Kennedy, Fasnacht and Hockings following just behind to take the rest of the bonuses (5,3,2 and 1 bonus seconds). The climb and sprint combination was particularly significant in the race for the young rider’s jersey as Fasnacht moved clear of previous leader Ella Scanlan-Bloor (Roxsolt) with bonus time gained.
The race quietened down again with still another ascent of Taminicks Gap remaining. On the final ascent of the climb, the pressure duly went on again and just like the first climb Hockings missed out at the top of the climb, but this time it was a lack of power rather than a mechanical.
A group of five including Corset, Kennedy, McIlroy, Pratt and Fasnacht crested the climb together, taking the bonuses in that order as well, moving Corset to equal on virtual time with Hockings and with an advantage on the road as well. Kennedy was still well in the hunt as well with only 6 seconds to make up to the leader and with bonuses of 12, 8, 6, 4 and 2 seconds on the line at the finish there was ample opportunity to do so. Georgia Catterick (Roxsolt) and Justine Barrow (Think Different) were the other riders present in the move.
Hockings put her head down over the top of the climb and managed to rejoin the group using her impressive time-trialling skills, which slowed down the cooperation somewhat. The peloton behind was being driven by Tessa Fabry for her High5 team-mate Rebecca Wiasak, who herself was only 6 seconds down on the GC and if she could claw back the advantage on the road and win the sprint it would the world Individual Pursuit champion who would take home the leader’s pink jersey.
Holden initially helped with the chasing and the gap came down steadily, at one stage the advantage had been reduced from 40 seconds to 25 and it looked like the catch would come before the finish. At that stage, Holden pulled off the front, maybe thinking that there was a better chance of Hockings beating Corset and Kennedy in a sprint than Wiasak and that left the 8-strong attack to contest the finish.
It was Kate McIlroy, the New Zealand triathlete, who emerged victorious in the sprint after being first through the final corner with Jessica Pratt putting down impressive power in the final metres to almost overhaul her by the line. Behind them the battle for the overall race win ended with Lisen Hockings taking third in front of Ruth Corset and Lucy Kennedy to secure the top step of the podium.
“It was an interesting race with the virtual lead changing on the road,” said Hockings, “The High5 team were attacking left, right and centre; they had Lucy (Kennedy) to go over the climbs and Beck (Wiasak) to get all the points at the sprints, just an immensely strong team. It was a great race and the Holden girls really laid it all on the line today so I’m immensely relieved to have managed to hold it together on the finish line.”
“I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet, it’s my third NRS race so it’s really exciting and I’m in a bit of disbelief because so much of today was based on the sprint and QOM points, so it was really really exciting and I was very happy to be involved with it as part of the Holden’s Womens Racing team.”
“I was 6 seconds up on Beck coming in and 18 on Ruth and Lucy, so to hang on by the skin of my teeth at the finish is nice. I had a bit of time in no man’s land time trialling back on, I had to do a lot of work to get back on at that point. Not how I thought the bike race would play out. One of the problems I had was that I didn’t have a front brake after the incident on the first climb where someone gashed the spokes on the front of my bike. So the descents were interesting and railing it into that left corner was pretty hard but I had to get them both on the line.”
With the win, Hockings overtook the previous series leader Kate Perry (Specialized) who hadn’t lived up to her strong time trial performance for 2nd in the first stage of the tour.
Ruth Corset, defending series champion of the Subaru National Road Series, also spoke after the race. “It was quite aggressive today, a lot moreso than yesterday. Specialized were the main one who tried to get away as they were quite down on GC, so they were the main ones. I was just trying to get the time bonuses on the sprints, the QOMs and then the finish. There was a small group of us and we tried to stay away and rotate through, but unfortunately Lisen caught us and then it came down to the sprint.”
Madeleine Fasnacht (Tasmanian Institute of Sport) did a superb ride for a junior, going with some of the best in the sport on the climbs and the sprints to take the young rider’s jersey and finish fifth overall, beating out Jessica Pratt, Ella Scanlan-Bloor and Jaime Gunning who all showed a lot of promise throughout the race.
High5 Dreamteam cleaned up the rest of the competitions with Lucy Kennedy winning the Queen of the Mountains, Rebecca Wiasak the Sprints Jersey and all five members standing on the podium as the teams classification winners.
James Finch-Penninger, Freelance Cycling Journalist
BrakeDown Podcast founder