When two riders arrived at the finish line together in stage four of the 2017 OVO Energy Women’s Tour last week, it was Australian rider Sarah Roy (Orica-Scott) who bided her time and attacked at just the right time to outsprint her Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) for the win. In doing so, Roy delivered the Orica-Scott team with its first UCI Women’s WorldTour win of 2017.
It was a big win for the Australian team, who had been chasing a win all spring. Roy’s finish line celebration was cut short, however, when she plummeted to the ground just meters after the finish line after her front wheel caught an edge and Roy lost control of her bike. Fortunately, no serious harm was done and the Australian lined up in London the next day for the final stage in the 2017 Women’s Tour, in which she posted a top-20 result.
We talked to the 31-year-old to ask her about the Women’s Tour, ‘that’ crash and life with Orica-Scott.
Orica-Scott’s first win
After Gracie Elvin’s successful spring campaign (including a second-place finish at the prestigious Flanders) and Annemiek van Vleuten’s recent success in Spain, it seemed like the Aussie squad wasn’t far off from a win. And with five stages, the celebrated Women’s Tour would be the perfect opportunity to do so.
But unfortunately, the team didn’t really get off to a great start in the Women’s Tour. Illness, mechanicals and plain bad luck saw the team not even in the top-10. And it wasn’t due to a lack of trying. The blue and yellow team was well represented in early breaks and attacks but never quite the right one.
“As a team, we, unfortunately, lost Georgia Baker during stage one to significant illness, and we had some bad luck in stage two with mechanicals,” Roy explained. “In stage three, Gracie and her breakaway were caught just five to ten kilometres from the line.”
Switching team tactics to contest the bunch sprint finish of stage three, Roy inched closer to the top-10, finishing 12th in the stage, won by compatriot Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini), and preparing her for what was to come on day four.
It was another wet, windy and hard day for stage 4, and this time Roy found herself in a break for the second half of the day, along with Marta Bastianelli (Ale Cipollini), Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolman) and Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb). As the kilometres trickled down, Majerus attacked her breakaway companions several times until only Roy was able to hang with the Luxembourgian.
“I looked back to see how far off [the dropped riders were] and knew this was it, it was between Majerus and me now,” Roy recalled. “I felt confident about my finish.”
In the cat-and-mouse game before the finish, Roy held back until the 200m sign approached. She threw a blistering attack, and crossed the finish line solo.
“Majerus had done a lot of work in the break and I was feeling good. Majerus moved to the front and I tucked in behind her all the way until the final bend at 300 meters to go. Lucky for me she didn’t close her left side enough and as she looked to the right, I went for it and managed to hold her off for the win,” said Roy.
At the time, Roy felt ‘relieved’ and ‘elated’ to take the win, stating: “It feels so good to get our first WorldTour victory, the whole team has been working really hard and we have come very close so many times this season and it’s a big relief to get off the mark. The girls have been wonderful and I’m really happy.”
Well over a week since the race concluded, Roy was still raving. She had lined up in two previous editions but the 2017 Women’s Tour was her most successful one yet.
“I absolutely loved the Women’s Tour,” she said. “From a rider’s perspective, not only is it very well organised, but the women are celebrated. The school children and local towns are involved, and the racing is exciting.” As far as the team’s performance, Roy said they “walked away very satisfied with our fast learning, persistence and good times.”
Roy’s stage win celebration was an unfortunate one, however, and gave many a scare. Shortly after posting up in a victory salute, Roy lost control of her bike and tumbled to the ground. She got a medical check after the stage, and seemed OK.
“I can’t be sure what happened or why I crashed,” said Roy. “But I do know throwing both arms up on a wet cobbly street really isn’t a good idea.
“Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s also not unheard of to react with joy when you’re so overjoyed,” Roy joked.
“Since no-one else was hurt, it’s mostly just very funny and my team and friends have certainly capitalised off of it,” she laughs. “Maybe this fall could actually benefit others, like an example of crashing safely, or, more obviously, what not to do.”
Finally in that positive flow
Roy’s Women’s Tour stage win comes after a number of victories for the team in Spain and her own win in the UCI1.2 SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn at the end of May. After a successful Spring campaign, but without any wins for the Aussie squad, it looks like the team is in a positive flow, said Roy.
“Annemiek van Vleuten’s win in Durango-Durango just before Bira was our first one-day win in Europe. And [Amanda] Spratty, Kat [Garfoot] and Vleuty all won stages in Emakumeen Bira.”
“My win in Swiss was really great, but this win in the Women’s Tour, we can be really proud of,” she said. “To pull this off gives me confidence, but I think it also gives the team confidence in themselves as well.”
Although it marks the first Women’s WorldTour victory for the team in 2017, that didn’t cross Roy’s mind immediately after her win. “I didn’t realise it was our first Women’s WorldTour win until someone mentioned it after,” she said.
“I mostly love this result because, apart from working really hard for a long time, I actually felt terrible at the beginning of the stage and was dropped on the first little hill … and also because we had been persisting as opportunists all week without luck.”
Orica-Scott’s Seinfeld life
Roy has been racing, travelling and living with the Orica squad since 2015 — a life she describes as a Seinfeld episode.
“Life with Orica-Scott in Italy is like living inside a Seinfeld episode. A bunch of dissimilar characters bumping into each other both awkwardly and hilariously. Of course, in the end, creating something successful and memorable.”
With an answer like this, we had to ask Roy about all the lead characters in her Seinfeld life. Here are some fun facts about all of them:
Katrin Garfoot: “Kat nits cute beanies, but writes devastating children’s stories – she told us German stories can be quite revealing to young minds.”
Jessica Allen: “Jess’ response to an unusual amount of things is ‘I’ll bake you a cake’. Unlike most people, she actually bakes the cake! She also pronounces syllables in words that don’t exist.”
Gracie Elvin: “Seems quiet and unassuming, but is actually disgustingly and intelligently witty.”
Marv [Martin] Barras: “Will make a U-turn!”
Georgia Williams: “Georgia demonstrated the haka during her ‘hot seat’ question time at team camp and it was brilliant. She also brews her own Kombucha! She’s from New Zealand, so, I think they do things like that there.”
Georgia Baker: “Is from Tasmania!”
Jenelle Crooks: “Nelly has a black belt in taekwondo and isn’t afraid to use her skills on you. Also has a disturbing obsession with bed linen.”
Alexandra Manly: “The free spirit of the group and ultimate insta-wifey. For an award-winning picture taken of yourself completely unbeknownst to you while you sip your latte as the sun defines all your good shapes and you look away candidly into the distance, call Alex.”
Amanda Spratt: “Spratty and team director Gene Bates are constantly arguing over who is shorter.”
Rachel Neylan: “She will miss 99 percent of the jokes, but is the queen of 1 precenters!”
Bruce Caretti: “Bruce is our head swanny and has the world’s biggest head. Literally, if you measured the size of his head with a measuring tape it would be the biggest in the world.”
Nico: “Our mechanic that has been with Aussie women’s road program for about 25 years. His favourite race is Flanders and we need to win it for him so he will get a good tattoo to distract from the horrendous Magpies tatt on his leg.”
Pat Ryan: “Our other mechanic who grows really long beards just to spite everyone, but it’s like he forgets he’s the one walking around with the three-dimensional wizard beard that he hates.”
Annemiek van Vleuten: “Vleuty loves asking about and learning new English words, no matter how sensitive the topic may be. And, I’m usually the one ‘demonstrating’ the definitions. Not just explaining them but physically demonstrating them. I’ll leave that with you …”