After winning the 20km points race to say Racquel Sheath of Waikato Bay of Plenty was happy was a bit of an understatement. With a very proud dad watching on, Sheath rode a confident race and timed her efforts well to come away with the win ahead of Lauren Ellis of Mid South Canterbury and Rushlee Buchanan of Waikato Bay of Plenty. We spoke to her afterwards.
To coin the phrase from Forest Gump, the points race is like a box of chocolates ‘you never know what you’re gonna get.’ Last night we got a sprint battle between the field, and where there is a sprint you can be confident that there will be Racquel. After a strong ride in the 500m time trial – where she produced a PB that was faster than her best time at altitude! – she approached the points race knowing that her condition was good but uncertain about how the event would play out. “For the points race I knew I had the legs, I didn’t know how it was going to go, I just wanted to rip it to shreds and leave nothing; and I managed to do it. My form’s actually coming good finally because it’s been a bit amiss all season,” she told us afterwards.
The race did not favour the breakaway riders, with no one able to steal a march and gain a lap it all came down to the sprints, and from the off Waikato Bay of Plenty were in dominant form, positioning themselves at the head of the race right at the perfect points with Jaime Nielsen, Rushlee Buchanan, Madison Farrant and Racquel all tallying up the points with Lauren Ellis, Southland’s Kirstie James, Auckland’s Georgia Williams also getting in on the action. Despite the dominance of Waikato Bay of Plenty, Racquel told us that it was in fact circumstantial and not a planned strategy. “We went into that going for ourselves and it just happened that we were all fighting for the sprint every single time and we were all up there; and it came down to the line every time,” Racquel said.
In the end it came down to the very last sprint, and while Lauren Ellis shot off the front to take maximum points, Sheath was able to step up and take second which was enough to claim the win, 4 points ahead of Ellis, with Buchanan third with 15 points. Afterwards a visibly ecstatic Racquel said, “I’m over the moon, I had no idea that was going to happen. I honestly wouldn’t have guessed that going into that race, but it just happened and I’m stoked.”
The solid ride in Wednesday’s 500m time trial was a pleasant surprise for Racquel, but it was her performance out of the pack that was something that comes from a love of bunch racing. That is set to carry into the team pursuit event and hopefully the scratch race coming up today. “This is what I’m here for, bunch racing I absolutely love it, team pursuit I absolutely love it,” she said.
Looking ahead though, the omnium event that we have been used to seeing Racquel perform at in recent times at an international level is not going to be her focus. Instead she is getting ready to fight for her spot in the Rio team and try to take her place in the quartet that won bronze at the Cambridge World Cup last year. “My focus is solely team pursuit this year, I want to give it a good crack. And I hopefully want to make it to the Olympics that’s the main goal,” she said.
You can keep following Racquel’s progress and the action from the Vantage Elite & U19 Track Nationals at the Avantidrome in Cambridge right here, with live coverage from the evening session which starts at 6pm.