|Media Release – January 18, 2003: Newcastle’s Olivia Gollan, 29, today claimed the women’s road race crown at the BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships at Buninyong near Ballarat, Victoria. It is the first major victory for Gollan, a secondary school English teacher, who has only been racing for three years after being introduced to the sport by 2002 women’s champion, Margaret Hemsley.|
Gollan completed the 100km distance in a time 26 ahead of silver medallist Oenone Wood, 22, (ACT) with Kym Shirley, 27, (QLD) a further two seconds back in the bronze medal position.
It’s Gollan’s second medal of the championships after she claimed the silver medal in Thursday’s time trial behind Queenslander Sara Carrigan. "Everything just came together for my best ride and it is absolutely amazing," said Gollan. "The time trial result was special but this is definitely the highlight of my career so far."
The riders covered ten laps of a tough ten kilometer circuit which included two testing climbs. Two laps into the race Shirley, Wood and Christine Riakos (NSW), established an early break and held the advantage for most of the race. But with 30 kilometers remaining Hemsley, Carrigan and Gollan began the chase joined by Lorian Graham (QLD) and Emma James (NSW).
The trio in front responded and despite the efforts of the chase group the leading margin remained at more than one minute. But on the second last lap Gollan applied the pressure launching a solo attack which saw her join the leading group with ten kilometers to go. Soon after she attacked again and this time established a solo race lead with none of the early break away riders able to go with her.
"I banked on the fact that after 70 kilometers in front the leaders would be tired," explained Gollan, who last year finished second on a stage of the women’s Tour of Italy and recently won the sprint classification of the Geelong Bay Series. "It was the race plan for us (NSW) to have a rider (Riakos) in any early break and for me to then attack in the final few laps."
"It took a fair bit out of me (to bridge the gap to the leaders)," she continued. "But I still had enough left to kick again."
"When Olivia (Gollan) got to us and then attacked she was just too strong," said Wood, Thursday’s time trial bronze medallist, who broke away from Shirley close to the finish line to claim the silver medal.
Tomorrow, a record field of 151 will contest the 180 kilometers men’s road race with defending champion Robbie McEwen, keen to defend his crown. But he’ll face tough opposition from a host of Australia’s top professionals including Cadel Evans, Stuart O’Grady, Michael Rogers and Baden Cooke.
The 2003 BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships, supported in part by Events Ballarat, Tourism Victoria and First National Real Estate, continue tomorrow at 11am.
Full details of the 2003 BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships and rider profiles can be found on the Cycling Australia website.