The final stage of the 2016 Bay Cycling Classic?were staged in the friendliest conditions of the race, as a sleepy summer?s day appeared to lull most of the peloton to sleep for the majority of the race. Only 30 riders were present at the start line, as riders clearly had an eye or two on the nationals, and opted to take a breather away from the last day of racing.
The two-woman breakaway of Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) and Julie Leth (Ale Cycling) was allowed to run away with the race, with Williams emerging the stronger, after attacking with 4-5 laps remaining and holding the advantage all the way to the line. Leth kept on fighting to hold on for 2nd with a comfortable margin, whilst youngster Yumi Kajihara (Novotel Geelong-Japan) took third with a canny late attack out of the peloton. Peloton Caf? spoke to Yumi Kajihara (translated through her team manager) after the stage.
?Two riders (Williams and Leth) had already escaped, and after some of my teammates attacked and were brought back, so I thought that I would have a good chance to escape. I had a lot of confidence before today, as I hadn?t tried to do any attacks before, and I tried for one big attack and I was confident that I could go to the finish.?
Koji Yoshi, the team manager, was keen to extol the virtues of his young charge, declaring that she had a big future in the sport, after displaying a lot of talent at the junior level where she was the dual national champion in the time trial and road race, and finished 4th at the junior World Championships last year. She had been largely anonymous in the peloton during the first three stages, but showed the ability that definitely has in spades by holding off the peloton as they were lining up for the sprint. This race marks her first step in the elite ranks after completing her junior career last season. ?I was confident going into the races, but elite level racing is very fast and hard to keep position. Once I have a few more years of experience racing, I hope to be competing at the top level and winning.?
The race began with Verita Stewart (Specialized Women’s Cycling) doing some time-trialling practice on the front of the peloton, with no one able to attack successfully until she took a break off the front. That was when Leth and Williams launched the move, with Orica-AIS clearly looking to force the other squads to commit riders to the front if they wanted to challenge, both for the win, and to take on the battle for race leader Gracie ELVIN?s jersey. ?None of the big teams took them up on the challenge, and with Al? Cycling happy for Leth to take a chance at getting a win, rather than bank everything on the slim chance that Scandolara might make up the seven points she was trailing race leader Elvin by.
With the tactics of the race behind, and the gap opening up to 45 seconds with only a few laps to go, it was always going to come down to a fight amongst the two leaders. In the end it was Williams who emerged the stronger, as she had been doing the lion?s share of the pace-making, before attacking and immediately getting a gap, which she extended all the way to the finish. Williams even almost managed to lap the main bunch, but in the end contented herself with an arms-wide, head-back exclamation of delight as she crossed the line in front of the Williamstown fans that were lining the road applauding her powerful performance.
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