How it was raced: 2020 Lexus of Blackburn Women’s Herald Sun Tour with Georgie Whitehouse.
Georgie Whitehouse of Sydney Uni Staminade shared with us her 2020 Lexus of Blackburn Women’s Herald Sun Tour ride.
It was an honour to be selected to ride in the green and gold this summer for Santos Tour Down Under and for the Herald Sun tour with the KordaMentha Real Estate National Team. Putting on the Aussie kit never gets old!
For the Herald Sun Tour we had a new group of athletes come together, including, Josie Talbot, Jess Pratt, Chloe Moran, Frankie Sewell, Catelyn Turner and myself) riding for the KordaMentha Real Estate National Team.
I enjoyed the challenge of teaming up with a new group of riders who I wouldn’t normally have the chance to work within the NRS and seeing what we could achieve. It was encouraging to be surrounded by like-minded athletes, each who have different experiences, teachings to pass on, and learnings to share.
In addition to a great group of riders, we had a strong and experienced team around us dedicated to our success and development, including our DS Donna Rae Szalinski, mechanic and 1993 world champ Billy-Joe Shearsby, and our swanny Matt Excel.
We stayed with all the women’s teams in Wangaratta; It’s exciting to be amongst the hustle and bustle, arriving at a carpark lined with bikes getting cleaned and serviced and the sound of music from all around the world.
Having done my homework, reading the race manual on the plane, I was eager to discuss tactics in our team meeting.
STAGE 1 – Shepparton – Shepparton, 95km Road Race
The Mitchelton Wines Stage 1 was a 95km road stage from Shepparton, through country roads, back to Shepparton. To my delight the profile was pancake flat, with long stretches potentially exposed to crosswinds.
With a sprint heavy team, we had some cards to play. However, ultimately the Tour winner was likely to be decided by a climber in Thule Stage 2, a short but brutal stage starting and finishing at Falls Creek.
Our plan was pretty simple and involved four p’s; preparation, positioning, proactive and process (goals). Preparation included studying the course and being aware of wind direction and the impact this could have on the race.
Also preparing for hard sections of the race by ensuring we are adequately nourished throughout the entire race (I aimed for one gel every 20 minutes). Being proactive meant taking opportunities as they presented, such as attacking if the time is right and also making sure we have a rider in any dangerous moves. Positioning was one of our process goals whereby we wanted to move together as a team and to be towards, but not on, the front.
As expected, the stage was on from the start with relentless attacks. However, it was team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank who really lit things up, aligning at the front and driving the peloton before a right-hander into a nasty crosswind stretch of road with 40km to go.
Mitchelton SCOTT took over and created an echelon and subsequently a lot of carnage. The bunch was strung out along the left gutter of the road with riders wrestling their bikes as they tried to hold onto the wheel in front. Within seconds wheels were dropped and gaps opened up. This was the make or break point of the race. I was grateful for Donna’s plan, as position and preparation were vital in making the selection.
My legs burnt and I had dribbled down my face but I made the split alongside two teammates in Josie and Jess. Most of the teams were represented in this bunch and had a few riders so we were confident that the break would stick, despite the chasing group coming within 27seconds.
Then the convoy became barraged, we were unable to feed from the car and lost radio communication. Not being able to feed & drink was a real challenge in the heat. My tongue felt like sandpaper as I willfully tried for a third time to squeeze nonexistent water from my bottle. Again I was grateful for preparing and having pre-hydrated well.
We made the call to ride for Josie [Talbot] coming into the sprint. There was a bit of confusion and chaos coming into the sprint and we weren’t able to execute the finish as well as we would have liked and missed the podium. Nevertheless, there was a lot about our performance that we were happy about and spirits were high ahead of stage 2.
STAGE 2 – Mt Beauty – Falls Creek (45kms)
Storms were forecast for stage 2 which raised uncertainty about the format of the race. Concerns were raised over the risk of a mass start into a fast and wet 30km descent down the mountain of Falls Creek.
We anxiously awaited the outcome for a few hours at the top of Falls Creek in the ski resort. The uncertainty was a real challenge and amongst all the teams riders, were becoming restless awaiting the news. After what sounds like a difficult deliberation the decision was made to start the race at the bottom of the climb in Mount Beauty.
We needed to refocus on the 1 hour drive back down the mountain and accept the circumstances (banging beats helped us get amped to race). With a lot of sitting around and no time for a warm up Josie’s tip, to spin, rather than coast, through neutral was very helpful.
The race was on from the moment the red flag was dropped, with riders trying to get a head start into the long climb. The race became most animated after the QOM and riders started to pop.
The climb was absolutely stunning and breathtaking (both in the literal and metaphoric sense). As the bunch neared the top of the mountain a daring move went by Bree Wilson from Roxsolt-Attaquer.
In the end it was New Zealand’s Ella Harris (Canyon/SRAM) who won, with Sarah Gigante in second and Lucy Kennedy who crossed the line in third, taking the tour win.
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What an incredible ride from Kiwi @elllaharrris @cyclingnewzealand) .After being dropped multiple times she battled hard to stay in the fight and win the @thule stage two! 🥊🥊 “I kept getting dropped so I just kept just dieselling myself back on, then with about 500metres to go I felt like I had a little bit more power than everyone else… to cross the line in first after the surprise crosswinds yesterday I can’t believe it, and it means so much to me. I’ve got so many people to thank and I am just ecstatic”🥊🥊 She also claimed the @gotafe QOM jersey! 📸 @chronis71
Takeaways from the Tour
It was very exciting and motivating to see former and current NRS riders in the mix. Based on the performances we have seen we are certainly going to have a strong and quality field in the NRS this year.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to race at such a high level with some of the best female riders in the world.
Racing in such a strong field has really tested me, identified areas for development and allowed me to refine my craft. I found the national team a positive and supportive environment that has helped me in my journey as an athlete and as a person. I feel more motivated than ever.
About the KordaMentha National Team
The KordaMentha Real Estate National team is focused on providing pathways for riders to develop and race with the elite ranks of cycling.
Over the Australian Summer of Cycling, six men’s and women’s endurance development racing teams were prepared by Cycling Australia for the Santos Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race plus Race Torquay, and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
The teams provide an important development opportunity for athletes within National Road Series (NRS) teams to contest UCI events within Australia.
This is KordaMentha’s third year as a partner of Cycling Australia to the summer of cycling.