In the popular New Zealand event, the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, the Aussies want the glory. Prime Estate rider Jenny McPherson took some time out to give me an for an insight into the race and unfold the teams goals and tactics right down to the dramatic finish.
Jenny McPherson has a long list of National, State and International achievements. We interviewed Jenny in November for BNA and she discussed her role as a sprinter or lead out rider for team mate Nicole Whitburn. At Taupo, the team also raced in an extra event, a criterium around the streets of the town on Friday night and Jenny came second (followed by teammate Nicole).
Jenny McPherson (l) 2nd, Cath Cheatley (m) 1st and Nicole Whitburn (r) 3rd in the womens criterium
The main challenge however was the 100km Workout Zone Women’s Road Race that began and ended in Taupo. RC speaks to Jenny McPherson in New Zealand after the women’s race for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA)
BNA: What were your team tactics at the beginning of the race?
McPherson: To win of course! Nicole (Whitburn) and I are the sprinters, so our aim was to take out the intermediate sprint and look for opportunities to get into a break away in order to try and get over Hatepe hill before the main group. Naomi (Williams) and Bec (Rebecca Loche) being the hill climbers, were to save their legs for the majority of the race and follow attacks on the climb. Then with the short and downhill run to the finish, hopefully lead each other out for the win.
A relaxing moment before racing kicks-off with the Australian Prime Estate women’s team
BNA: We have seen attacks right from the line, when did the attacks start this year?
McPherson: We were riding into a bit of a head wind, which made it less inviting to get a small group off the front. There was a short climb at the beginning of the race which stung the legs a bit and a few girls tried to keep it strung out but no one got any kind of decent gap.
The climbs around Lake Taupo are not for the faint hearted
BNA: Did any team start to reel them in or were they let go with riders looking to conserve energy?
McPherson: Nicole and I tried a few times to attack, but generally riders just got tired from riding into the wind and drifted back to the bunch without a dedicated chase. There didn’t seem to be many other girls working together to try and set up a break. Mainly individuals wanting to conserve themselves for the Hatepe climb.
BNA: Are there lots of nerves in the first few kilometers?
McPherson: Not really, it was under control until we were out of the main township of Taupo. The road was pretty open and straight, and with a bunch of about 40 it was pretty relaxed! Naomi and I were on the front at the beginning, and Naomi pulled out $10 note and rode up the road a bit and called out ‘Sprint Prime’.. just to stir the girls up as a joke!
The women’s peloton, controlled here by Jenny, made it hard for riders to breakaway
BNA: The Prime Estate Team was right up there setting the tempo, was this part of the plan? Any other teams help you out?
McPherson: Yes, we wanted to make our presence felt in the bunch. There were many strong individuals, who did help do some chasing but they didn’t take advantage of trying to get in a break with one of our team members. Had they done this, they would have had the benefit of another 3 girls from our team to help block and stop others from chasing the break down.
Naomi Williams climbing as cars overtake on the right
BNA: What was the tempo like for the first 50kms?
McPherson: I don’t ride with a speedo anymore, I just look at time – which reminds me to drink and eat regularly. I didn’t eat anything until after Turangi (1hr & 30mins riding), which shows I wasn’t working super hard. Normally I’d eat something every 30-45mins.
BNA: Did the team have to chase down any wheels?
McPherson: The surprise attack came from a NZ girl called ‘Chubby”, she attacked 15km or so before the climb and she kept the gap until the top of the climb! With a nickname like that, we weren’t too concerned about chasing her down, but with the tailwind home, the gap quickly blew out and we didn’t get any updates about how far in front she was getting.
While the field spread on the climbs, the descents brought the field back togethers
BNA: At the 25km to the finish had the pace started to lift? Were you all working together at this point?
McPherson: At this point, Chubby was still out in front and Bec decided to test her legs out with an attack and she was able to get a gap on the bunch. The rest of the bunch seemed content to just keep riding and wait for the climb. This suited our team perfectly because Bec has a triathlon background and can climb well. Bec had the opportunity to chase and pass Chubby on the climb and time trial to the finish and take the win! But alas, it wasn’t to be.
The women’s peloton clears the peak and settle into the ascent
BNA: It’s tough to gauge the difficulty of Hatepe Hill looking at its profile, how tough was that climb for you?
McPherson: On paper it doesn’t look super tough, but the fact that I had been attacking and chasing a lot in the middle part of the race, I wasn’t feeling very fresh and therefore my leg speed slowed down quite a bit going up the hill!
I’m twice the height and weight of a lot of these riders so I have to rely on my power to get up the climbs, but when you’ve already ridden 80km and been attacking and chasing a lot, there’s not much power left!
BNA: Did anyone attack on the climb which surprised the group?
McPherson: I think everyone was waiting/watching Cath Cheatley (NZ professional riding for American women’s cycling team) to attack, which she did at the base of the climb.
The breakaways on the tough climbs were mostly doomed
BNA: Tell us about the crowds along the course?
McPherson: There were a few scattered people cheering through towns along the course. I remember there was a band set up playing music on the way back which was a little unusual!
BNA: How tough were the conditions out on the course?
McPherson: The toughest part was having to getting up at 5.30am for a 7am start! But the upside of that, we were finished by 10am and the temperature hadn’t gotten too hot.
The traffic was also a little scary, especially when the group bunched up across the road. However, the race officials did a great job creating awareness of our bunch on the road by using motorbikes and cars to warn motorists to keep a safe distance when passing us.
BNA: Can you take us through the last 5kms of the race, how the team was going, where were you situated, did you have any tactics?
McPherson: With 5km to go, Naomi and Bec were in the lead bunch of about 15 or so riders. Nicole and I had been dropped on the climb and were in the 2nd group of about 8 riders chasing hard. We had the lead group in sight and were gradually pegging them back and looked set to catch them in the closing kilometer.
Then tragedy struck, bikes and riders in the lead bunch went skidding across the road! We could see Bec and Naomi on their feet thankfully, but 10 riders from the lead bunch were still able to squeeze through and head for the finish line. Nicole and I were chasing harder than ever, but were not able to close the gap finishing 10 seconds behind the winner.
Thank you for your time, we wish you and your team crash free finishes and podium placings for 2011.
Jenny McPherson finished in 13th place (2:55:37) with team mate Nicole Whitburn in 11th (2:55:36) while the Team Prime Estate finish line sprint contenders Naomi Williams and Rebecca Loche lost over two minutes after the crash.
Top Ten Results in the Workout Zone Women’s Road Race
1 Kate Chilcott (Auckland / NZ) 2:55:25
2 Sonia Waddell (Hamilton / NZ) 2:55:25
3 Cath Cheatley (Wanganui / NZ) 2:55:25
4 Emma Crum (Auckland / NZ) 2:55:25
5 Emily Collins (Auckland / NZ) 2:55:25
6 Corrine Smit (Whakatane / NZ) 2:55:25
7 Karen Fulton (Nelson / NZ) 2:55:25
8 Kerri-anne Torckler (Havelock North / NZ) 2:55:26
9 Melanie Burke (Auckland / NZ) 2:55:26
10 Paula McCoy (Auckland / NZ) 2:55:26