With 11 miles remaining in the race, Justice made the final turn onto Cattleman along with the main group but eventually won the race with a 90-second gap. “It was a flat race; there was one somewhat steep hill,” remarked Justice, “I’m more of a climber so I knew I wouldn’t have the best chance in a sprint. My team mate Fiona [Strouts] and I tried to fake everyone on the last climb. We set a fast pace but didn’t attack and we knew everyone would be tired. Eventually I went solo for the last 10 miles.” Justice continued to say she had some down time after Cascade and it was nice to come back with another win, having also won at the Leesville Gap Road Race.
2012 Leesville Gap Road Race: Justice is Served by Wheels Out
For the uninitiated, a little background on this race course is necessary. Copperopolis—because of where it falls on the calendar, its ear-catching name and its bumpy roads—has a reputation for being the Nor Cal answer to Roubaix. The middle third of Leesville Gap deserves the reputation Copperopolis has and then some. Leesville’s roads are terrible—there are miles of wheel destroying potholes interspersed with sections of quicksand like gravel. Smack dab in the middle of all of this nastiness, is a climb of over a 1,000 feet, which is second in difficulty to only Mt. Hamilton on the Nor Cal road racing circuit.
Knowing what was in store, the 20+ rider field set out at a leisurely pace. In fact, the only break attempted in the first 10 miles was a nature break. The resulting delay led to a field of men catching the women just as the bad pavement began, enhancing the chaos that always ensues at this point of the course. There were not any distinctive attacks, but constant pressure at the front left only twelve riders in the lead bunch at the base of the climb. After the first steep ramps there were only three: Heather Van Sickle and Nicole Justice (both of Stevens), and Heather Nielson (Touchstone). By the top of the climb this trio amassed a lead of 45 seconds over chaser Molly Van Houweling (Metromint). Passing the summit 20 seconds later were Lisa Mueller (Metromint) and Elle Anderson (Touchstone). They were followed closely by Ellen Sherill (Metromint). Sherrill soon met misfortune, getting an ill-timed flat just after the neutral support car had pulled around her.
It seemed possible that the motivated front trio would take advantage of the splits behind and simply ride away. The difficulties of the course and complimentary strengths of the chasers prevented this. Anderson wielded her excellent descending skills (also on display at Pescadero and Nevada City) to bring Mueller across the gap to Van Houweling. The three combined forces, swerving through the gravel pits together to catch Van Sickle and Justice after just a few miles. The fast and fearless Nielson had moved off the front by this point, but an organized chase from the Metromint and Stevens teammates brought her back in relatively short order. Mueller’s chasing efforts, in particular, stood out.
Soon the group of six reached the only significant hill remaining on the course. Van Houweling went to the front and pushed the pace on this 3 minute bump. Unfortunately, her teammate Mueller, railed by her earlier efforts, was the first to fall off the group. Anderson also succumbed near the top, but righted things on the descent, and rejoined the four riders up front. The five stayed together through the feed zone and onto the windy and flat ten miles of chip seal that lead into the finish.
Van Houweling, the only rider without a teammate (oops), did not like her odds in a sprint, and began to attack on the first cross-winded stretch. Initially, the Stevens and Touchstone riders had no trouble pulling her back, with Van Sickle taking on much of the workload to protect her teammate Justice. Repeated efforts by Van Houweling, combined with a few counter-attacks from the others, slowly had their intended effect, however. Anderson was the first to fall off the pace. Then another flurry of racing action on the home stretch caused a final split in the remaining group of four. Van Houweling and Justice pulled ahead of Van Sickle, who herself had distanced Nielson.
The front duo cooperated until Justice took the lead with a kilometer remaining. She seemed to be setting herself up for disappointment at the line by providing such a long leadout. But as Van Houweling pulled up on her side, Justice put in one final effort and raised an arm in decisive victory. It was a well-deserved first win of the Nor Cal season for this up and coming Stevens’ Rider. It was also great payback for the work of her consummate teammate Van Sickle, who finished in third. Nielson rolled across in 4th and Anderson in 5th, for a strong Touchstone showing. Mueller finished in 6th with a strong solo effort to the line.
For additional reportage, excellent pictures, and post-race comments from Justice, don’t miss Imager’s great report below.
Visitors show the locals how to win – Warragul Gazette
Racing was livened up on Saturday with the arrival of a team of cyclists from St.Kilda Cycling Club who were in the area for a training camp. One of the benefits of cycling is that once you have a race licence you can turn up anywhere in Australia where they are holding a race and join in. The St.Kilda crew certainly showed the locals up by winning both A and B grade.
Seventeen riders started the combined A and B grade race. After 5 of the 8 Laps a natural selection occurred and 3 of the 4 A graders were off the front and riding into the distance. Pete Finlayson was the only Red Number to not make the split. Steve Lane launched a solo attack on Lap 5 and dangled off the front for an entire circuit. Stiles and Hale jumped across to him and put the hammer down, riding away from the remainder of the field. In the sprint for A grade honours, Stiles went from the corner but weakened near the line allowing Hale then Lane to get over the top to take 1st and 2nd.
Prior to this the racing had been aggressive with many short lived breaks. Scott Keeble was keen to get off the front and did half the first lap on his own. Lucy Coldwell did a full circuit off the front on lap 2 but Stiles and Steve Lane were not letting anyone go too far. Nicole Justice and Maranda Griffiths were keen to get into breaks and showed some of the Warragul boys how to race aggressively.
Once the A graders escaped Griffiths tried hard to organise a chase but some of the Warragul boys were reluctant to join in. Cy Monk and Charlie Davine seemed to be conserving energy for the finish and Keeble and Whelan had already retired from the race after being dropped. Thommo and Rob Monk rolled a few turns with the girls but it was clear that there were more passengers than workers.
The St.Kilda girls soon grew tired of the Warragul blokes sitting on and they went to plan B. They took it in turns to attack off the front on the final lap. Coldwell went at the beginning of Darum Park Road but Rob Monk chased her down. Griffiths was next to go but again was matched by Jayman Prestidge. Nicole Justice took off on the rise to the Milk factory and Cy Monk looked to have the move covered. Justice and Monk drew away from the field but Cy made a crucial tactical error. He decided that Justice was weakening and would be caught so decided to leave her out there and rolled back to the peloton. He was wrong.
From the moment he left her, Justice powered away. Rob Monk felt the need to make up for his sonâ€™s tactical ineptitude and sacrificed his chances of winning by doing everything he could to bring back the break but no-one else would help.
An exhausted Justice took the win by 20 meters from a bunch of Warragul men who were fresh enough to sprint but not contribute to the chase. Davine won the bunch sprint for second with Thommo third, Prestige fourth. Well done Nicole, a deserved victory; a first by a female rider in B grade at the WCC for a very long time.
SKCC Newsletter – Gaelene Snelling
Amy’s Gran Fondo – SKCC Women wrap up
312 Women participated in Amy’s Gran Fondo and 20 of them were SKCC.
Three SKCC women were World Age Group Qualifiers. Nicole Justice (2nd woman home), Fiona Carden (12thwoman home) and Judy Barnesby (64th woman home). Well done Ladies !
Here’s a quick rundown on the age group results for SKCC ladies.
Nicole Justice was our only entry in this category – but finished in an awesome time of 3:12:25 and was second woman home in her category AND second woman home overall. Well done Nicole !