By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
The four-stage Geelong Tour began Sunday night with an eight-kilometer prologue time trial. T-Mobile is the only all-American team here, but there are a handful of Americans dispersed on different teams.
Jessica Phillips is riding with the German Nuremberger team this season. She will be based in Liepzig, Germany and racing in Europe most of the year, but their team has started the season in Australia with the tour and a short training camp. Meredith Miller, who is based in Copenhagen, Denmark is riding with the Scandinavian SATS team. SATS is a chain of gyms that is prominent throughout Scandinavia. Nicole Freedman and Tina Mayolo are riding with composite teams, put together especially for this tour. Nicole is technically registered as an Israeli rider now, but she was a member of the United States Olympic Team in 2000.
Before the start of the tour, we predicted the Australians and New Zealanders would be some of the strongest competitors in the race, as they are at the end of their summer racing season now and many are in peak form. They held true to our prediction in the prologue, as they put their boots to us and all the Europeans. They swept the top 8 positions, T-Mobile slipped into the top ten though, with ninth and 10th placings. Because the prologue was relatively short, it was mainly pursuiters in the top-five and last year’s pursuit silver medalist at the world’s, Katie Mactier, won.
After the prologue, we had an evening criterium, which had a little hill to make things challenging. It was a fairly controlled stage, as it seemed most riders were content with a field sprint and not too eager to tire themselves trying to get off the front. The final sprint was a bit scary though, as the road narrowed with a tight turn at 300 meters to go. Haylee Rutherford won the race, and the Aussies were well represented in the top ten again.
We are located on the Bellerat Peninsula with Port Phillip Bay to the North and the Bass Straight to the South. The first three stages were along the coast of one of these two bodies of water. The beaches along these coasts are full of surfers and the water looks inviting as we are perspiring in the peloton. Tuesday’s circuit race finished 50 meters from the beach and jumping in afterward was tempting, but we opted not to attempt swimming with the sharks and, besides, we were a little too embarrassed to show our cyclists tan lines with all the cute surf boys around.
The final two stages of the tour – the circuit race and road race – were won in field sprints. It felt as if both races were big motorpace sessions, as the speed was high. Each were relatively flat and even though the racing was aggressive, it was too easy sitting in the bunch and every attempt off the front was brought back. Petra Rossner won the bunch kick in the circuit race and Sarah Ullmer the road race. The general classification was won through a combination of the prologue and finish time bonuses, which were awarded in each stage. Oeone Wood took the lead from Katie Mactier after the circuit race and went on to win the overall. Kristin Armstrong and I remained ninth and 10th, just as we had finished in the prologue.
We now have three days to rest our legs for the Geelong World Cup. We have some easy rides, massages and nice dinners planned for the next few days. The race organization is trying to create a connection between the cyclists and the local school children and have planned some events for today that each team will take part in. Our team will be giving a talk at a local elementary school.
I have already previewed the World Cup course with my teammates. It’s a 15km loop that travels along the coast in the first and final sections. It’s flat and windy near the start/finish and mid-circuit there is a jaunt inland, where we will face a one kilometer hill each lap. The teams will be comprised of the same riders we competed with in the Tour.