• Shannon Malseed (R) at the Oceania Championships. (Images by Con Chronis)Source: Images by Con Chronis
Shannon Malseed executed a tactical race plan to take the win in the Oceanias Road Race on Saturday, outsprinting two others to win an exciting edition of the women’s race.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
9 Mar 2016 - 12:01 PM  UPDATED 9 Mar 2016 - 12:38 PM

After being selected for the High 5 National Development squad, which takes the best of the domestic riders and exposes them to European racing, the 21 year-old capitalised on her preparation for the European spring racing.

“I’ve been training fairly hard and preparing for what’s to come in Europe and that put me in good form for Oceanias," Malseed said.

"I certainly didn’t expect to win with the pretty tough competition that was lining up at the race, but I knew that I had a shot. If I was to win I knew I would need a bit of a headstart, which is what I got. Luckily I was able to take advantage of it.”

The race began with a succession of aggressive moves from several riders, eventually forming a 14-strong group. With experienced riders like Loren Rowney (Orica-AIS) and Jo Hogan (Total Rush) in the move, it was a dangerous pack that gradually stretched out a solid advantage.

“I knew that every team was represented so there wasn’t going to be much of a chase from the peloton. We (Holden Women’s Cycling) were the only team with two in the break, myself and Louisa Lobigs.

"I spoke to her and the team car (team director), and I was able to rest up a bit in the break, I probably did the least work of anyone in there. That was a tactical decision so that I could save myself for the climb.

"We crested the end of the climb with just our two Holden riders and Loren Rowney. I knew at that point that we’d get to the end, maybe others would catch back on, but we’d be in the front bunch.”

The climb saw a lot of action behind the front group with attacks from the main peloton by the top climbers, with groups attempting to bridge to the leading trio.

“After a bit of cat and mouse we were caught by a small group including Kat Garfoot (Orica-AIS), Jo Hogan and a few others, which evened the numbers up. I looked back and could see another group coming from behind them, including Miranda Griffiths (Holden).

"Louisa attacked then and when the group reacted to bring her back the other group behind caught on, and I used that moment to attack.

"The people who had been up front all day were a bit tired, the people who were behind were tired from chasing on and I felt pretty fresh. I attacked with 15 kilometres to go and Jess Mundy (SASI/Callidus) followed me, and then Lisen Hockings bridged over. We had a good little group to work until the end. I was pretty confident that I would win the sprint.

"I’ve raced against Jess Mundy before, she’s beaten me a few times and I’ve beaten here a few times and I knew from her body language that she was a bit tired that day. Lisen Hockings is new to the sport, and she’s also a climber, so I thought I had it in the bag with one kilometre to go.”

That belief became reality soon after, with Malseed jumping to easily win the sprint by a comfortable margin over Mundy, with Hockings in third.

“I actually saw one of my friends from Ballarat on the side of the road, Pat Shaw (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) was there screaming that I’d won it. I looked back and saw I had a few bike lengths and had time to do a decent victory salute. I was just over the moon… I couldn’t quite believe that I’d pulled it off," she said.

"I’ve replayed the race a hundred times in my head and everything just fell into place on the day. I had a bit of luck, good legs and I felt that maybe I was underestimated by some of my competitors and they let me have a little too much free space.”

Malseed has taken wins before, most notably the 2015 under 23 road race and criterium titles, but described this victory as the most enjoyable.

“This would be my favourite win. The under 23 women's road title was amazing, but because of the way it’s raced (mixed in with the elite women), you don’t get to cross the line first and throw your hands up. It was a completely different experience to do that here.”

Malseed will now head to Europe where she will be part of the five domestic riders joined by a different Australian professional at each race.

“This year we’re going to be doing the classics, so it will be different from the Tours we did last year. I’m aiming to make a name for myself in Europe, then hopefully I can move forward and get onto a professional team in the next few years, that’s the aim.

"I’ve never done the classics before, so I’m looking forward to seeing how I go. I’m not a pure climber, some climbs I can get over, but others I can’t, then I’ve got a bit of a sprint. I’m still trying to figure out what sort of rider I am, and part of that is getting this experience overseas, which is just a priceless.

"I’m very fortunate to be selected for a second time. I’ll be riding as a domestique rider, but I’m sure I’ll get some opportunities as well. We were really lucky to have the likes of Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM), Loren Rowney and Rachel Neylan (Orica-AIS) racing with us.

"They bring so much experience to the team, and it brings more confidence, knowing that we have people who actually know what the roads are like, what the teams are like and what it takes to win a race.”

The squad took several top results last year with Neylan winning the general classification at the Trophee d’Or, Jenelle Crooks (Specialized) taking two overall youth classifications and Kimberley Wells (Colavita-Bianchi) finishing on the podium in a number of sprints.

The results were in quality races and happened despite the relative inexperience of many of the squad in European competition.

“There’s a million things that you learn in a very short amount of time," Malseed said. "The tactical decisions and the technical things that you have to know, also general living and the culture is completely different from country to country. You become a better cyclist and a better person from those experiences.

"We were the underdogs on paper, but with the attitude we brought into races we felt like we deserved to be there. I think that was the result of having those experienced riders there, it just got us in the right mindset.”

While Malseed is clearly looking forward to getting back to Europe, it is the social side of the sport that gives her joy.

“The environment and the lifestyle is why I do it. All the friends, teammates that I meet along the way have become close. I really enjoy being fit and healthy and doing something that I enjoy every day."