• Lobigs held onto a two second lead for the whole race to take her maiden National Road Series GC win (Cycling Victoria)Source: Cycling Victoria
Louisa Lobigs led from the start to the finish of the Tour of East Gippsland but it was still a tense affair as she and her Holden team-mates were forced to fight off attacks from rivals only a few seconds behind on the general classification.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

20 Feb 2017 - 1:25 PM  UPDATED 20 Feb 2017 - 1:53 PM

Stages 1 and 2 of the Tour were run on Saturday, with a short eight-kilometre time trial followed by a 72km road stage held over an undulating loop before a steep climb inside the final ten kilometres provided an opportunity for the attackers.

The time trial was held over a rolling course near Metung, with the established riders coming to the fore to display their prowess against the clock. Lobigs (Holden Women’s Cycling) zipped through the course with the quickest time but there was a logjam of top quality riders just behind her on the general classification. Holden had every right to be very happy after the finish, as they also had Shannon Malseed and Grace Brown in contention in the top five.

Lobigs (Holden Women’s Cycling) zipped through the course with the quickest time but there was a logjam of top quality riders just behind her on the general classification.

Holden had every right to be very happy after the finish after placing both Shannon Malseed and Grace Brown into the top five.

The second stage was held over two circuits of a fast, hilly loop that proved a bit too quick for any breakaways to gain much headway. Eventually, an attack gained some traction with Jade Colligan (NSWIS-Sydney Uni) and Taryn Heather (Specialized) going away. Their maximum advantage stretched out to a minute and 25 seconds before the bunch woke to the danger.

The run-in to the final climb of the day saw the break swallowed up by the hard pace as a select group of climbers formed over the top before an eventual regrouping of the peloton set up for a bunch sprint.

The uphill run in produced a long, hard kick to the finish with the in-form Malseed taking the win ahead of the experienced Ruth Corset (Rush Womens) and youngster Jessica Pratt (High5 Dreamteam). The leader’s jersey remained on Lobigs’s shoulders despite some small splits in the peloton in the dash to the line.

Coming into the final stage around picturesque Lydnenow, Holden still held the cards but knew that they would have to hold off the attacks of the other teams. They were forced to defend against aggressive racing, with Specialized and Rush particularly active and noted mountain goat Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dreamteam) sitting in the wings waiting for an opportunity on the climbs. 

The entire stage was animated by a series of surging attacks on a course offering perhaps too little in the way of opportunities to split the peloton.

Despite numerous attempts to get away, the stage ended in a bunch sprint with an uphill run into the line within the final kilometre. The High5 Dreamteam went hard from the bottom of the incline and claimed an impressive 1-2 finish with Sam de Riter jumping off Lucy Kennedy’s wheel to take the victory.

Such was the ferocity of the lead out that it threatened to gap the field. However, race leader Lobigs was able to stay close to the front and retain her lead.  

“I don’t think there was any time I was nervous," Lobigs said. "we had such a strong team to control everything. They did such an awesome job I didn’t really have to do anything. I had a train trip for the whole race and that meant I was fresh for the last lap today and if any attacks went I could go with them and in that last sprint I was able to avoid any time gaps.

“It was my first GC victory and it’s a nice way to start the year, a good confidence booster. I’m having fun with the Holden girls and hopefully, we can keep hold of the NRS jersey we won last season (with Lisen Hockings).”

Strengthening of the Biological Passport on the horizon
The fight against doping is an ongoing battle in cycling, but a new test is being developed to take away one of the excuses for athletes caught out by the Biological Passport. Louisa Lobigs, the 2016 Amy Gillet Foundation Scholarship recipient, is doing her Ph.D. on the new test, whilst juggling the work with her own cycling career.

Lobigs was sixth at the nationals time trial championships in January and is best known as a specialist against the clock but hopes the overall win has shown that she has more strings to her bow. The road race stages were far from mountainous but did offer the climbers some opportunity to test the rest of the field, a challenge that Lobigs overcame.

“I think I’d like to show some other strengths," she said. "I’ve been working on other aspects of my racing, I don’t just want to be known as a time-triallist and it’s something I’m definitely working on this year.

“There were no massive climbs in this year’s Tour but those little bumps and rollers really do tax the legs after a couple of times going up them. I really enjoyed the courses on offer. It would be nice to see some longer stages but

"It would be nice to see some longer stages but obviously, it’s tricky with the organisation.”A the first race of the NRS,

Lobigs is now the overall series leader after the first event for 2017, followed closely by team-mate Malseed and former champion Corset.

The series continues with the Battle on the Border on the 29th of April.