Belgium-bound Georgia Whitehouse (Sydney Uni-Staminade, SUVelo) enjoyed a double-double on Saturday, defending her 2018 Metropolitan Championship to make it two straight wins in the NSW Road Premiership before she leaves for a month of racing in Europe.
Whitehouse, who has dominated the women’s racing scene over the last year, comfortably won the bunch sprint in Penrith ahead of teammate Anna Booth (Sydney Uni-Staminade, SUVelo) and under-19 Tahlia Dole (Illawarra Academy of Sport, Illawarra CC).
Unlike her authoritative solo victories of past months, however, this time Whitehouse was unable to detach herself from the peloton. Twelve riders started the 9-lap, 45-kilometre race around the Sydney International Regatta Centre (with Dubbo’s Simone Grounds a non-starter), and they did their utmost to restrain the strong Staminade team.
“It was really aggressive today. I tried to get away a few times, but I think I was marked, which makes it hard,” said Whitehouse afterwards.
Whitehouse had been the first to attack at the end of Lap 1, trying to use the slight incline of the Olympic bridge to generate a gap. However, it was her teammate Georgia Miansarow (Sydney Uni-Staminade, SUVelo) who escaped with fellow rower Emma Bunn (Dhuez Racing, Rapha CC) on Lap 3 to form the main break of the day.
The duo rode as impressively on tarmac as they would’ve rowed in the lake, and with the peloton soft-pedalling behind, the pair quickly opened up a 30-second gap. However, the effort caught up with Bunn, and Miansarow shelled her breakaway companion to enjoy nearly a minute’s solo lead by the end of Lap 5.
Bunn spoke about her effort afterwards, saying she enjoyed her time in the breakaway with Miansarow.
“Both of us used to row on this course, so it kind of felt like we were at home,” she said. “It was fun. She’s really strong and really great to work with. I just took some turns and tried to hold on.”
“It was fun. It was a really cool course. It was nice and punchy, there was a tailwind in some areas and a fun little technical bit around the S-bends.”
Back in the bunch, Nadia Younan (Dhuez Racing, SUVelo) realised her teammate had been dropped and duly took up the pace-making to peg back Miansarow and reset the race with two laps to go.
Whitehouse was full of praise for Younan.
“I think she did three laps on the front,” she said. “She’s super strong. She’s just come back from a training camp and you can tell she’s on good form. She made it tough, which is probably why the breakaway didn’t stay away.”
Despite an immediate counter-attack by Booth and a flurry of late attacks by the women in pink, nobody was given any breathing room. The bunch exited the final corner together, with Miansarow leading out Whitehouse. Once she kicked, the result was a fait accompli, with the 2018 Roadwoman of the Year winning by several lengths to double her Premiership advantage.
Young Dole sprinted impressively for a podium spot against more senior opposition, taking the U19 Country Championship in the process.
Tess Wallace (St George CC) and Matilda Offord (Marconi CC) crashed on the final corner, but were able to limp over the line with blood dripping from their knees.
It was a confidence-affirming victory for Whitehouse, who says that racing at home has helped her reach top condition ahead of travelling to Belgium this week.
“My form is the best it’s ever been and my FTP‘s higher than ever, so I’m feeling really good. Everything went to plan with our training, so there’s not much more that I can ask for. Now I just have to transfer these numbers into a race.”
“It’s been really good to have these races this time of year to get me in form,” she said about events in NSW. “This year’s been quite good; I feel like there’s a bit more aggression in the racing.”
After honing her form as a big fish in the small pond of domestic racing, Whitehouse is looking forward to testing herself against the European peloton. For her, the trip will be mostly about the racing, although she may find room for a little indulgence.
“I’m looking forward to aggressive racing, challenging myself on the technical courses there, learning and working super hard—and the hot chocolate as well! I hear there’s amazing chocolate.”
In the Elite Men’s race later that afternoon, Sam Hill (Team Nero Bianchi, Hunter District CC) and Cameron Roberts (GPM-Stultz, Goulburn CC) repeated their one-two finish from last year, albeit in slightly different circumstances. They broke away much earlier into the race than their last-lap dash in 2018, and this time, they were joined by local stalwart Peter Milostic (Penrith CC).
After escaping on Lap 5 out of 20, the trio held an advantage of around 25 seconds until the halfway point of the race, when the peloton slowed and the gap blew out to almost one minute. In the three-up sprint, Sam Hill had enough speed to come around his rivals to claim back-to-back wins in the event.
The NSW Elite Women Road Premiership continues on 25 August with the Nemingha to Nundle, part of the Tamworth Cycling Festival.
Words and photography: Ryan Miu