A lively race in central Canberra for stage 2 of the National Capital Tour saw Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dreamteam) emerge the strongest in a dog fight with Ruth Corset (Rush) and Lisen Hockings (Holden) up the final climb to the summit finish.
With the lone breakaway rider Lucy Bechtel (Specialized) caught just at the base of Black Mountain to ensure that it would be the main climbers who would fight it out for the win.
From the bottom of the climb Ruth Corset, who came into the stage in 3rd position attacked hard from the base of the mountain to try and take as much time as possible on her rivals. Lisen Hockings and Lucy Kennedy were the only ones able to follow, with Hockings taking over the pace-making to make sure that the dropped riders remained dropped, moving her up on the general classification. Lucy Kennedy attacked hard as the climb grew steep again, creating a gap that lasted through to the line, taking the win by five seconds over Ruth Corset with Lisen Hockings third, 23 seconds adrift. Kennedy spoke to Peloton Café after the stage.
“That was hard work! It was always going to be hard work, so I was prepared to suffer for 10-12 minutes.
“My High5 Dream Team teammates were absolutely incredible! Beck (Wiasak) in the yellow jersey was driving the bunch, Kendelle (Hodges) was all over the place chasing everything, and Tessa (Fabry) finished awesome as well.
“I needed to win that for the team because they had worked so hard for me, and I just had to deliver for two kilometres at the end. I felt really good, I’d just been eating and drinking all day, and coming into the climb Kendelle delivered me right to the front so I was right where I needed to be going into the climb.”
The peloton started on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, with the majority of the race comprised of circuits of the Yarramlumba area which contains many of the foreign embassies to Australia. The rolling course wasn’t too hard and the initial saw High5 Dreamteam control the racing action before Lucy Bechtel threw the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.
Bechtel was very much the animator of the race, jumping away from the main bunch on the third lap of the 7 kilometre Yarralumba circuit and quickly stretching out the gap to the peloton. She would remain by herself for the remainder of the race despite a number of other riders trying to bridge across, with Shannon Malseed and Louisa Lobigs (both Holden) being particularly aggressive.
‘I wasn’t riding for the finish today, I was riding for my teammates, so the plan was to take the points and time on the QOM and sprints each time around as there was a lot up for grabs there. From the first few laps you could see that it was working in the High5 Dream Team’s favour as they were controlling the sprints and QOM’s, then sitting up at the top. I figured we needed to do something different!
“I knew my team were waiting in the bunch and I had full confidence that they were conserving energy, and I knew the moment I got caught they would be ready to go, so I just emptied the tank. The plan wasn’t to conserve until the end, it was just to go as hard as I could for as long as I could, until the gig was up.”
The other major story of the race was the fight for the overall National Road Series lead. Lisen Hockings entered the final event of the women’s NRS with a healthy 13 point advantage on her nearest rival, Ruth Corset. A below-par time trial threw that position into threat, but Hockings hit back with a performance that will, barring misfortune or a truly extraordinary performance by Corset or Kennedy, guarantee her victory. After the stage Hockings shared her thoughts on the race.
“The Holden Girls were just amazing, with Louisa (Lobigs) and Shannon (Malseed) riding like that I just had to do my best to get a result after a pretty ordinary TT by my standards yesterday. I got a bit ‘owned’ in the TT yesterday, which was very disappointing because it’s something that I like and try to be good at. But I’m very new to it too, tactically I had good power but all at the wrong times and I blew up.
“On the climb Ruth floored it from the bottom, as I knew she would, then sat up a bit and I knew I had to keep going. It would lose me the stage, but give me a chance of moving up on GC. I just kept going hard up the hill, trying to put a gap into the people behind. I knew that Lucy and Ruth were outstanding climbers and would go around me, they did and I did my best to try and hold on. It was pretty good fun and pretty hard work.”
“That’s always a little bit in the back of your mind (the NRS overall) but this is only my 4th or 5th NRS race. It’s just so much fun racing against girls of this calibre, I’m learning loads.”
After just completing the stage atop Black Mountain, Hockings joked when the question was put to her about the upcoming stages.
“I’m just happy to have finished today first! I was a bit miserable about it being a three kilometre climb up to the finish today as being one of the tallest in the peloton, I have a few more kilos than everyone else to carry up a mountain!”
“We’ll talk to our DS (Julian Knuppel) and come up with some plans for tomorrow and I’m sure Shannon and Louisa with their experience riding in Europe will be able to help me out.”
There was an unusual bit of controversy in the race as well. As lone attacker Lucy Bechtel got deeper into the race her lead began to diminish from the 50 seconds maximum that she had established earlier, as the race prepared to take the turnoff past Old Parliament House and head out to Black Mountain. At that stage there was a lot of confusion between the race organisers and the commisaires with the result being that an extra lap of the circuit was ridden by Bechtel and the field, extending the total race distance by seven kilometres.
“That extra lap was a little heart breaking, I’m not going to lie! I was worried that I was going to be the only one doing an extra lap, so I was slowing down and talking to the motorbike scouts which does break the rhythm. I think that the peloton got a lot closer in that time. I knew it wasn’t right, so I wondered if I should go through the motorbikes, or just follow what they say. It was a little disappointing, but that’s just what happens sometimes.”
After the race, Peloton Café reached out to the race organisers and commisaires for an explanation of the incident, but confusion reigned even after the finish on whose responsibility the mistake was, with none prepared to go on the record.
The race continues tomorrow with a double stage day, with a morning kermesse followed by an afternoon criterium. Last year the same stages were both won by Beck Wiasak and with her hot form at the moment she will again be hard to beat.