It was a super-charged bunch sprint that decided the title, with Sophie Edwards (ARA Skip Capital) surging to the line to claim the second iteration of the Lochard Energy Warrnambool Women’s Cycling Classic – one of the longest one-day road races in the world for women at 160 kilometres.
The 22 year old beating home seasoned professionals Chloe Hosking (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) and Matilda Raynolds, who was riding for composite team Lochard Energy.
The race started from the Colac velodrome with drizzly conditions and the rain hung around for much of the overcast day. There was some brief attacks but most were gathered back in before Nicole Wilson (Cycling Development Foundation) eventually made a margin stick, and got out to a 2.30 minute lead. Her activity scored her second spot in the QOM KFC Mountain Classification behind Gina Ricardo (Team BridgeLane), while Nicola MacDonald (Cervelo – Ziptrak) claimed the Lochard Energy Sprint Classification.
Just after the halfway mark there was a crash, Courtney Sherwell (DRG Knights Liv) and Elizabeth Young ((Cervelo- Ziptrak) both treated by medics, Sherwell with a potential broken arm.
Wilson was reeled in and as the event wound onto the Great Ocean Road there was some more failed attempts to jump off the front by a handful of riders, but again the race closed up, giving the sprinters a chance to ply their trade.
Raynolds was always going to be up against it, riding almost as an individual, while Hosking, who’s father has raced the event twice, managed to battle her way through for podium.
Sophie Edwards – Winner Lochard Energy Warrnambool Womens Classic (ARA Skip Capital)
“To be honest I’m just shocked, I hoped it would happen today but I didn’t really believe it until I was over the line. I have to thank every single girl on this team, I did not touch the wind the entire race, I hid in the bunch, saved my legs. The girls road super aggressively and then set up the finish exactly how we wanted it so I’m super impressed and proud to be a part of this team.”
“I was feeling pretty good (coming up to the line), I was staying in the saddle as long as I could. Seeing the other girls already starting their sprints, I felt confident that as soon as I hopped out of the saddle and really gave it a kick that I could finish it off to the line.”
Chloe Hosking – 2nd (Roxsolt Liv SRAM)
“It was a pretty quiet day that came down to a bunch sprint. I was actually was pretty poorly position but I knew that it’s a a hard sprint so long and uphill. So I was waiting, waiting, waiting, and to be honest with 400 meters to go I thought ‘we’ll this is over, the day is over,’ and then I managed to sneak through for second so it’s not all bad. It was really impressive by the girls today and it’s nice it come and race with the NRS girls, see who they are going, obviously this is where it all grows.”
“I’m normally in Europe at this time of year so when I saw it in early Feb I knew it, it’s been on my radar for a while. It’s got a bit of a history in the Hosking family, my Dads ridden it twice. One time he said he didn’t finish and another time I think it was a hard day for him. I feel like I’ve crossed something off my bucket list racing the women’s Melbourne to Warny. Really happy with it.”
Matildas Raynolds – 3rd (Lochard Energy)
“I’ve actually made the podium every time I’ve done this event so it’s a good record. Look the race probably went the worse way it could for me, I needed a really hard event and it was just quite easy.
“There’s only so much that I can animate being a solo rider, there’s only so much that I could chase. I did a few dummy attacks now and then to try and get it going. In the end I could see it consolidate, that it was going to come back … I could see it getting bunched on the right, I could see it being led out on the left and I was like a popped balloon in the wind. I had to go early, went early and in a head wind, uphill, I just couldn’t hang on. To be honest if I have a birds eye view of it I’m happy to get third with the number of quality sprinters that were here, and to beat some of the bigger teams. I feel like I did all that I could today and that’s all that you can do. It’s difficult to win it when it was a bunch sprint.”