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By Gennie Sheer
Austrian Christiane Soeder (Univega) claimed opening honors in stage one of the Geelong Tour Tuesday, an 8km time trial at bayside Portarlington. Soeder, who in a former sporting career claimed the German title in 800m and 1500m running and has medaled twice at the World Duathlon Championships, posted a time of 11:07.510c to defeat Russian Svetlana Bubnenkova by five seconds with New Zealand’s Melissa Holt third in 11:12.820.
Soeder, a qualified doctor, has been in Australia during the summer to take advantage of the good weather and training conditions in her bid to be in top form this year with her eye on the road World Championships being staged in Salzburg, Austria in September. But her early season training has already paid off.
“It was really nice for me to win here because there are very strong riders here,” she said. “We held a training camp in Melbourne for six weeks, so we are looking forward (to performing well this week).”
Holt, one of New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games hopes, was happy with her third place in the breezy conditions.
“You always notice the wind and there was a definite headwind going out and a tailwind coming home but the conditions were pretty perfect really for time trialing,” said Holt. “We’re five weeks out from the real big competition for the Commonwealth countries and hopefully the form is coming.”
In the second stage a 30km criterium also at Portarlington, Rochelle Gilmore from Helensburg in NSW sprinted to victory ahead of ten time German champion Ina Teutenberg with World ranked number one and defending Geelong Tour champion, Oenone Wood third.
“It was pretty fast and you had the Nurnburger and T-Mobile girls up there trying to get a lead out for their riders and it was obvious that Oenone and Ina Teutenberg would be the two fastest sprinters there,” said Gilmore. “I just felt confident at the finish with a lap to go, I knew that I’d done the work the last few weeks I’ve had a good preparation and great support from my coach Warren McDonald.
Gilmore rides with the pro team SAFI Pasta Manhattan and has several of her team mates with her for support in Geelong where last year she won the opening round of the World Cup Series. But Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson has stepped in as Team Manager for the week.
“Phil Anderson and Simon Gillett, training with those guys I’ve had the perfect preparation and if I had not have won I would have been questioning why because the work was there.
“I’ve had so many good people supporting me; everything the last few weeks has been running perfectly.”
Wood for her part was mostly happy with the day but a little disappointed with the final sprint in the second stage.
“I stuffed the sprint a little bit this afternoon, I ran into Ina’s back wheel and luckily I held it up but it didn’t help me for the finish,” said Wood who is now three seconds off race leader Soeder overall. “I was more happy with this morning which gave me an indication that I’m on the right track and I’m a lot better than I was in January.
“I’ve got the World Cup at the end of this week, that’s a major goal, the World Cup and the Comm Games and then the rest of the European season, I’ve got a couple of big months ahead,” said Wood who has claimed the World Cup Series Crown for the past two years. “We want to win it this weekend, so that’s going to be a big ask because there’s a lot of awesome riders here, more than any other year they’ve got a really good representation from European riders and Asian countries are well represented as well.”
Soeder finished safely with the front group on the second stage to maintain her overall lead but the margin has slimmed with Wood now only three seconds in arrears after picking up bonus seconds for the intermediate sprints and third place on stage 2 with Holt sitting third, four seconds off the lead. Wood leads the sprint classification and 17 year old Tiffant Cromwell leads the Best Young Rider Classification.
129 of the world’s top women cyclists are contesting the event including Commonwealth Games favorites and the top three ranked women in world cycling. 17 nations are represented.