Brodie Chapman has won the inaugural UCI Gravel and Tar La Femme.  Chapman, riding for Oceania Women’s Cycling, won ahead of Jenna Merrick and Rylee McMullen of Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling after a very aggressive day of racing from the riders.

The Gravel and Tar La Femme Race got underway to semi-overcast conditions; providing a little welcome shade to what was set to be a long, hot day in the saddle.  Up ahead of the riders was 116km of racing including 5 gravel sectors totalling 40km for the 35 riders across 7 teams making up the inaugural UCI 1.2 women’s race.

Attacks were a virtual certainty from early on and Ione Johnson of the New Zealand National Team took off up the road with Velo Project’s Kirsty McCallum.  Across the first section of gravel, however, it was McCallum who emerged as the lone leader with a lead of some 10-15 seconds over a group led by Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling.  Amanda Jamieson and Rylee McMullen led the way for the team in a group that included Deborah Paine of the New Zealand National Team and Sharlotte Lucas of Oceania Women’s Cycling.  

 

 

McCallum was caught shortly after the gravel and at the turn to Makino Road with 27km covered it was gruppo compacto at the front of the race with 20 riders representing all teams in contention; although the gravel had taken its toll on a few others.  Mike Greer Homes were happy to keep control of the front of the race for now and keep a healthy tempo at the head of the pack as they moved towards the sprint prime and then to the second gravel sector of the race.

Castelli Women’s Racing and MGHWC were the next to show signs of interest in attacking the peloton as the race rolled its way onwards.  5 riders got a lead that went out to 8-10 seconds but the peloton were quickly onto them.  At the intermediate sprint with 35km covered Libby Arbuckle of Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling and Sharlotte Lucas of Oceania Women’s Cycling went head-to-head for line honours.  Arbuckle narrowly took the prime with Lucas’ teammate Brodie Chapman taking third place.

Sector 2 of the gravel didn’t initially break the race up as much as had been anticipated although there was a sense that it would only be a matter of time, and sure enough the peloton stretched out over one long line that covered the best part of 400m as they tackled the 3.6km gravel sector.  It was sector 3 of gravel that was by far the most fierce though, at 10.5km in length and it proved to decimate the field.  Brodie Chapman of Oceania Women’s Cycling took the opportunity to press on and break clear, going up the road with Jenna Merrick of Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling in hot pursuit 10 seconds behind.  

Jenna Merrick leads Brodie Chapman during the Gravel and Tar La Femme, photo Ed Wright/RoadCycling.co.nz

Behind them Kate McIlroy of Castelli Women’s Racing and Niamh Fisher-Black of Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling ahead of the Paine-Lucas group that all in all was stretched out by about a minute.  All bets were off as far as a peloton was concerned now though as the race continued onwards toward Taonui Road and well into the second half of the race.

Chapman and Merrick were well clear of the bunch with a 2.30min advantage at 72km; still with 2 gravel sections ahead of them but with the race increasingly looking like it may have reached its decisive stage.  The interesting point would be whether Chapman would sit up and wait for Merrick – who still found herself some 10-15 seconds adrift of the Australian – or whether Chapman would aim to time trial her way to the win.

At around 80km the gap had grown further to 3 minutes and Chapman and Merrick had opted to work together for now.  The two emerged on Midland Road side by side as behind them Deborah Paine of the New Zealand National Team began to put serious pressure on the front of the race; but sadly a wrong turn from Paine put paid to that particular effort and she had to quickly turn and regain contact with the group that was now 7 strong heading to the final gravel sector.

The impetus in the chase group really dropped on the approach to sector 5, allowing Chapman and Merrick to build their lead to over 4 minutes and make all but certain of at least the top two steps on the podium.  But for a crash or mechanical issue these two would contest the win.  The chase group behind them consisted of Ella Harris and Deborah Paine of the New Zealand National Team, 

Kate Mcilroy was particularly strong for Castelli Women’s Racing on the gravel sections, photo Ed Wright/RoadCycling.co.nz

Kirsty McCallum of Velo Project, Kate Mcilroy of Castelli Women’s Racing, Grace Anderson of Oceania Women’s Racing, Connie O’Brien of Tineli Development Team, Niamh Fisher-Black and Rylee McMullen of Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling.  

The latter two had no need to contribute to the chase and neither did Anderson with their teammates up the road.  All the impetus was therefore placed on McIlroy, McCallum, Paine, Harris and O’Brien to do the work; and the kilometres were taking their toll.  The gap continued to build to upwards of 5.20mins and into the 6 minute bracket by the time the race reached the finish line in Palmerston North.  Chapman was forced to lead the sprint out and in the end her power won out as she gapped Merrick to take the win in the inaugural race.  In the small group sprint for third Mike Greer Homes took another spot on the podium with Rylee McMullen sprinting to third place.

2nd and 3rd positions on the day contributed to Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling running out with the team classification.

Results:

Pos. Rider Nation Team Time
1 Brodie Chapman AUS Oceania Women’s Cycling 3.32.09
2 Jenna Merrick NZL Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling +0.01
3 Rylee McMullen NZL Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling +8.15
4 Kate Mcilroy NZL Castelli Women’s Racing +8.16
5 Grace Anderson NZL Oceania Women’s Cycling ST
6 Kirsty McCallum NZL Velo Project ST
7 Ella Harris NZL NZ National Team ST
8 Connie O’Brien NZL Tineli Development Team +8.17
9 Niamh Fisher-Black NZL Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling ST
10 Deborah Paine NZL NZ National Team +8,18
11 Alicia Evans NZL Team Cyclista +10.51
12 Elyse Fraser NZL Velo Project +12.58
13 Amanda Jamieson NZL Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling +12.59
14 Hannah Bartram NZL Tineli Development Team +13.00
15 Libby Arbuckle NZL Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling +13.30
16 Elizabeth Stannard AUS Oceania Women’s Cycling +13.33
17 Kate Wightman NZL NZ National Team +15.46
18 Stella Nightingale NZL Tineli Development Team +16.21
19 Hannah Bayard NZL Castelli Women’s Racing OTL
20 Emma Smith NZL Tineli Development Team OTL
21 Charlotte Rayner NZL Tineli Development Team OTL
22 Bethan Stubbs GBR Velo Project OTL
23 Kate Smith NZL NZ National Team OTL
24 Kerri-Anne Page NZL Castelli Women’s Racing OTL
25 Amelia Matthews NZL Team Cyclista OTL
26 Alana Forster NZL Team Cyclista OTL
27 Nina Wollaston NZL Velo Project OTL
28 Emma Roberts AUS Team Cyclista OTL
29 Bronwyn Macgregor NZL Castelli Women’s Racing OTL
  Sharlotte Lucas NZL Oceania Women’s Cycling DNF
  Emma Jane Chilton AUS Oceania Women’s Cycling DNF
  Ione Johnson NZL NZ National Team DNF
  Annamarie Lipp NZL Velo Project DNF
  Georgia Danford NZL Castelli Women’s Racing DNF
  Margaret Leyland NZL Team Cyclista DNF

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