• Gina Ricardo was the first woman to cross the finish line at L'Etape Australia 2017. (Kath Bicknell)Source: Kath Bicknell
While the course was shortened due to severe weather, the conversations at the 2017 L'Etape Australia finish line marked it as one to remember.
Cycling Central
3 Dec 2017 - 6:16 AM 

When conditions get challenging, we learn new things about ourselves, our strengths, our companions and our equipment. 

Gina Ricardo (NSWIS), pictured in the header image, was the first woman to cross the line, sneaking just under the three hour mark. Surprisingly calm and relaxed at the end of the ride she spoke about how much the course, and the conditions, made her love her bike even more.

While Amanda Spratt (Orica-Scott) finished with the fastest 'net' time in the women's category, which appears to take different start times into account, it was Ricardo who picked up the Yellow Jersey. 

Jesse Coyle was the first male rider home after a solo escape on the Col de Beloka. His POC teammates weren't far behind.

Finishing was a huge achievement for everyone. With the rain getting heavier during the day, the longer riders were out there, the more challenging it was.

The chance to meet cycling royalty, either on the road or off it, was another highlight of the event. Commentators Matt Keenan and Phil Liggett built a celebratory atmosphere at the finish line. Off the microphone, they spoke with fans and posed for photos, as approachable as any other cyclist.

Four-time Tour de France champion, Chris Froome (Sky) was a star attraction too, boosting riders' spirits out on the course. He was surrounded by a mob of smart phones and excited cyclists afterwards. 

Yellow bikes decorated the region. The local community and an extraordinary number of cheerful, helpful volunteers gave the event a flavour all of its own.

After a few days of tensely checking the weather forecast, one of the highlights was certainly seeing the cycling community come together as people shared in conversations and a passion for the sport on and off the saddle.

related reading
L’Etape Australia defies the storms
The second edition of the Snowy Mountains-based gran fondo went ahead on a curtailed course in wet conditions, with Jesse Coyle and Gina Ricardo taking the honours.
On choosing not to ride
Riders at L’Etape Australia were faced with some incredibly challenging conditions this weekend, one of which was their own personal thoughts on whether to ride if the weather-affected race went ahead, writes Kath Bicknell.

Photos by Kath Bicknell.