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by Simone Giuliani
January 6, 2016
Photography by Con Chronis
NEWS AND RACING BROUGHT TO YOU BY CHAPTER2 BIKES
BALLARAT, Australia (CT) – Sophie Mackay (Specialized Women’s Racing) charged over the finish line ahead of her more experienced breakaway companions to take out a surprise win in the elite women’s criterium at the 2016 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
Mackay, who was part of a lead group of nine dominated by Orica-AIS, won a closely contested sprint with Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS) while Lauren Kitchen (Hitec Products) came third. It was Jessica Mundy (High5 Dream Team) in 10th place who took out the race to be the lead under 23 rider across the line. It is the first year which the winner of the category will also receive the green and gold striped jersey.
The first third of the race played out relatively quietly with a few riders having a dig but nothing that held. Then a number, including Australian road champion Peta Mullens (Wiggle High5) and Rachel Neylan (Orica-AIS), put in efforts with a little more staying power. A group which fluctuated in size then formed with less than ten laps to go and when it swelled to nine and the gap stretched it became clear those out the back, including defending champion Kimberley Wells (Team Colavita), had little chance. Orica-AIS was in a strong position, with four riders in the front group, and Mackay, who had no teammates alongside her, was just planning to hang in there and try and go through the last corner in a good position. She had her work cut out for her though after she took that final bend near the back of the lead pack.
“All I was thinking was just hunt them down, hunt them down, hunt them down. There was (Sarah) Roy, Kitchen, and Lizzie ahead of me and I could see I was gaining on Lauren and Sarah. Lizzie was pretty close to the line though and I was just hoping.” said Mackay.
The accountant from Wagga in New South Wales has only been riding a road bike for around four years and described herself as a team work horse, who races the National Road Series and hasn’t stood on a podium for years.
“This is amazing. This is only the second time I’ve raced the national criterium. The last time was three years ago and I got held up behind a crash in the finishing straight,” said Mackay. “To be honest I wasn’t a contender at all so to come away with a national champions jersey is a huge step, hopefully in the right direction, as far as my cycling career goes.”
The 33 kilometre women’s criterium is run on a tight hotdog circuit in the middle of Ballarat. The criterium is the opening race in the Australian Road National Championships, with the time trial on Thursday and the women’s road race on Sunday morning.