May 11, 2019 – La Course aux vélo FEMMES – handicap, 52.5 Km

La Course aux vélo FEMMES – 11th May 2019

The Conni Classic – Race 1

Windmill circuit – 52.5 km

 La Course 2019 - Conni branding

Women’s Bicycle Race

A More Females On Bikes initiative

La Course aux velo FemmesBACKGROUND
After the great success of the Women’s Handicap race staged by Geelong & Surf Coast CC (GSCC) in December 2018, then Eureka President – John Faulkner – said ‘I reckon we should hold a women’s race’…which loosely translates to “Make it happen!”
And we did.

The original talks with series creator – Tina Stenos (GSCC – President), centred around a three race women’s series early in the year to capitalise on “summer fitness”.  However, with so many Opens and Championships at the front end of the year, only one race was able to be squeezed in before winter (some would argue that winter won that race…)
In the background, the team at More Females on Bikes was working towards securing sponsorship for the women’s series.  Hygiene product manufacturer Conni, saw the worth in backing the series.  This complemented the support already obtained from VETERAN Cycling Victoria.
The Conni Classic2019 Women’s Race Series was born, with Victoria’s major regional cities playing host:
Race 1 in May at Ballarat.
Race 2 in September at Bendigo.
Race 3 in December at Geelong.

Fast forward to early May and forty eight entries have been received for La Course aux velo FEMMES.  This includes twelve Trial Riders…

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La Course aux velo FemmesRACE REPORT

By race day, some scratchings have been received and forty six riders arrive at Learmonth for the women’s bicycle race.  The excitement in the air is palpable.
There are nerves amongst those competing in a road race for the very first time.  This is not just restricted to the Trial Riders!  Some of the first timers have actually joined cycling clubs.

Effectively, La Course is two events.  Trial Riders Division and AVCC license division.
The Trial Riders are participating as amateurs.  They race FREE of charge and are ineligible to win prize money or trophies – these are Australian Veterans Cycling Council rules.
The Trial Riders are issued green numbers so that they are easily distinguishable during the race.  Leading up to the event, each Trial Rider was contacted by the handicapping team to discern whereabouts they would fit into the field.

The riders with AVCC licenses are racing for a large prize pool and women’s series aggregate points.  They wear white numbers.  Former Eureka Club Champions – Tony Mirabella and Andrew Rushton are on hand to chaperone new riders through their warm up and to the start line.  Tony and Andrew ride alongside the new riders, allaying fears, offering hints and helping to ease tension.

The time counts down to the 10 AM race start.  The weather is bleak on the iconic Windmill circuit.  Overcast with misty rain and fog.
The south westerly breeze is gradually increasing and will be very noticeable by the third and final lap.

The riders are formed into their groups.  The Trial Riders have been spread amongst the groups, rather than clumped together as one.  The idea is to give the Trial Riders as good an experience as possible.  The experienced riders offer words of encouragement to the newbies.
The spectators cheer the groups as they are released from the start by Timekeeper and VCV President – John Faulkner.

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This field is littered with cycling stars.  As well as Veteran Open Road Race winners, there are Victorian Veteran State Champions and Australian Veteran Champions across each cycling discipline in the field.  Others have ridden for years, literally!
As for the experience of the Trial Riders?  Some are triathletes or mountain bikers, some have ridden in gran fondos and some have only owned a road bike for a few months.

Early in the race, the experienced riders are offering advice to the Trial Riders.  Ballarat local – Linnea Bjornsson – finds a few of the instructions boggling, so she simply rides away from her Second Limit (27 min) group as they crest the climb past the quarry.
Just 4 kilometres later, Andrea Wilson (Central) also takes her leave from the 27 minute group.  She heads off in pursuit of the race leaders, who are as yet unseen.

The spread of the field is 33 minutes, so the Limit riders are less than two kilometres from completing Lap 1 when the two Scratch riders from Geelong – Jessica Douglas and Erin Kinnealy – are released from the start line.

The Limit group still has the race lead, with Emma Anderson (Eastern) and Michelle Francis (Central) showing the way for the local Trial Rider Mary-Ann Seebeck and Melbourne Trial Rider Raewyn Mackie.
Another local Trial Rider – Shelley O’Brien – has dropped off the pace in her first ever race.  The wet tarmac causes concern, so a chaperone drops in behind to coach her through the remainder of the race.

Bjornsson (Trial Rider) is closing fast on the race leaders and takes over just 19 kilometres into the race.  Behind her, most groups have been ripped apart by the parcours and the huge differences in ability.

For all the simplicity of the Windmill circuit, the changing surfaces and slopes make some sections fast and others absolute slugfests.  The riders were discovering this the hard way…

Past the quarry again and local Trial Rider Lauren Burnett has teamed up with Danni Bond (Geelong).
A few hundred metres behind is another Melbourne Trial Rider – Robin Gilchrist – who has traded the sunny and flat seaside roads for the cold rolling Central Highlands on this day.
Pamela Vandersluys (Eastern) is already out of the race with a mechanical incident.

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The remnants of the 18 minute group are next on the road.  They have swept past the 22 minute group which has blown apart.
Aileen O’Brien (Central), Meg Parnaby (Grampians) and Corrine Rice (Geelong) have picked up just one 22 minute rider – Di Jane (Central).
It’s a short gap to Alison Watt (Northern), then another gap to Meredith Kelly (Northern).
Melanie Tudball (Eureka) is experiencing her first ever road race the lonely way.
Jo Hand (Geelong), Laura White (Eureka) and Melbourne Trial Rider Elizabeth Windsor are all looking strong as they power up the hill.
Melbourne Trial rider Melissa Ward shouts out to Donna Jamieson (Northern) “Number twenty, do you want to jump on?” as she tows fellow Melbourne Trial Riders Megan Meredith and Danielle Goonan up the rise with Jo Read (Northern) and Jenny Denouden (Geelong).
Another Melbourne Trial rider – Emily Ryan – is just off the back of the group.  Read will go on to link up with Ryan and make sure she finishes the event…

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Geelong duo Lynette Bitton and Cecilia Digenis hardly notice the short rise as they talk all things cycling without missing a beat or gasping for breath.
Marietjie DeKock (Eastern) is another rider in solo mode.  She is just ahead of the 12 minute group which still has the winner of the inaugural Eureka Open in 2010 – Wendy Bennett – from Central.
Geelong riders Carolyn Hall and Kim Howard look strong, as does multiple Australian Championship medal winner Marg Noonan (Northern).
Eureka’s Emma Goodall is in her comfort zone – time trialling – yet still wondering if anyone would notice if she just ducked home for a cuppa.
The 10 minute group is next.  They have picked up Jakkii Dawson (Eureka), yet lost recent Benghazi victor – Kym Petersen (Eastern).  A flat tyre has ended Petersen’s day.
Cheryl Barker (Central), Lisa James (Eastern), Alison Skene (Eastern) and race visionary – Tina Stenos, all ride smoothly as though the hill does not exist.
Heather Hamling (Colac) is solo as she attempts to stay clear of Scratch.  Hamling stripped down to just summer kit at the start line – prompting gasps of disbelief from the locals and sending Longy into hyperventilation.  In an effort to stay warm, Hamling had ridden away from Rae Lesniowska (Northern) early.
Jess Douglas (Geelong) is next.  The Scratch rider flies up the rise.  Lesniowska is next and just behind her is Erin Kinnealy (Geelong) bringing up the tail of the field.

Back at the start line and the Lead Car has just come into view.  Bjornsson is the only rider in sight as she received the bell.  She is streaking away to what seems to be a very easy first place in the Trial Rider division.  Wilson comes through next.  At this point in time, her lead over Jess Douglas is four kilometres.  There are plenty of riders in between however and Wilson leads the race proper by 500 metres over Anderson and Francis.  Trial Riders Seebeck and Mackie are still there.

Wilson’s main dangers appear to be Parnaby, Rice and O’Brien, who are making good time.  Past the quarry again and Bjornsson is actually pulling away from the field.  Wilson is next on the road.  Parnaby and Co. are next, having caught the former race leaders.  For a few kilometres Francis and Anderson hang on with grim determination.

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Trial Rider Elizabeth Windsor has decided now is the time.  She puts her training to great use and starts to ride through the field.  Her target is the Parnaby group…

Five kilometres remaining for Wilson.  She has just a two hundred metre lead on Parnaby, Rice and O’Brien.  Trial Rider Windsor has latched on.  She is a clear second in that division.
Hand and White are riding clear of the bulk of the field.  Douglas is riding faster and is just 2 kilometres behind Wilson who has now been caught by Parnaby, Rice and Windsor at the top of Donovan’s Road.

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The small rise sees Wilson off the back.  O’Brien is in the distance holding Hand and White at bay.  Douglas is just about to take care of those two on the same rise in Donovan’s Road.

Way up the road and Trial Rider Linnea Bjornsson has taken line honours in the race.
It is over six minutes later when Trial Rider Elizabeth Windsor scoots clear of the Parnaby and Rice who are playing cat and mouse.

These two have the race between them.  The cross head wind is quite strong now and each rider is holding till the last to make the decisive move.

Rice goes at the 100 metre mark and clears away for a comfortable victory from the ever gallant Parnaby.
Another minute and a half until Wilson crosses in third place, just holding out the quick finishing Douglas who is easily the Fastest Rider on this day.
Aileen O’Brien is clear in fifth place.  Jo Hand and Laura White have a ding dong sprint to decide 6th and 7th.
The brave Heather Hamling crosses in 8th.

The riders continue to reach the chequered flag at short intervals.  Trial Rider Lauren Burnett crosses in 17th place overall, yet third place in the Trial Division.
A long thirty minutes after Bjornsson finished, Trial Rider Emily Ryan is escorted to the line by Northern Vice-President – Jo Read.

Forty two of the 46 starters finished, with punctures ruining the race for the four non-finishers.  All eleven Trial Riders completed the event.

Trial Rider results:
1st – Linnea Bjornsson, Ballarat (27 min) in 1h 46m 45s ave. 29.5 Kph
2nd – Elizabeth Windsor, Kew (15 min)
3rd – Lauren Burnett, Ballarat (27 min)
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La Course aux velo FEMMES results:
1st – Corrine Rice, Geelong SC (18 min)
2nd – Meg Parnaby, Grampians (18 min)
3rd – Andrea Wilson, Central Vic. (27 min)
4th – Jess Douglas, Geelong SC (Scratch)
5th – Aileen O’Brien, Central Vic. (18 min)
6th – Jo Hand, Geelong SC (15 min)
7th – Laura White, EUREKA (15 min)
8th – Heather Hamling, Colac (6 min)
Fastest Time – Jess Douglas, Geelong SC (Scratch) in 1h 28m 35s ave. 35.6 Kph

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