• Gina Ricardo and good friend and teammate Georgie Whitehouse celebrate her maiden NRS victory (Jamie Finch-Penninger)Source: Jamie Finch-Penninger
A race stoppage, sweltering conditions, steep hills and two talented rivals couldn’t stop Gina Ricardo (Sydney Uni-Staminade) from sprinting to victory on Day 5 of the women’s National Road Series.
SBS Cycling Central

2 Dec 2020 - 4:59 PM  UPDATED 2 Dec 2020 - 5:01 PM

The Sydneysider made sure that she was part of the move of the day, jumping with Bree Wilson (Roxsolt- Attaquer) and Sam de Riter (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) to form what turned out to be the winning move.

The trio didn’t work particularly well together initially, but cooperated better after a while, with Ricardo and De Riter a bit wary of Wilson, a quality climber, and her ability to jump away on the steep slopes around the 32-kilometre loop.

“Sam and I were praying that she wouldn't attack us on the hills,” said Ricardo after the race. “Luckily for us she was pretty cooked from yesterday's stage. She kept in under control and we were able to sit on her wheels up the hills, then it came down to the sprint!"

Ricardo played the final sprint well, waiting for De Riter and Wilson to jump and using as much of their slipstream as possible before coming round De Riter to take the sprint win narrowly.

"Everyone was pretty cooked and tired because it's been a really hard week so far with the heat and the unexpected hills," said Ricardo, describing the race. "To start off the pace was pretty slow."

A slight miscalculation from organisers saw the men’s peloton, racing at the same time on the same loop, catch the back of the women’s race on a busy two-lane fast road, with the women waiting in the parking lot of the Margaret Olley Gallery for the men to pass. Riders took on drinks, huddled in the shade, nursed stockings full of ice. De Riter went one step further and actually got into her team car with the air conditioning on.

There were several factors that played into the races catching each other. The races were run at the same time to reduce expenses and time on the local roads, and while the men's peloton is 65 starters strong, with riders subbing in on the larger teams to freshen up their roster. Meanwhile, the women's peloton has 31 starters, a lot of them veterans of a brutal stage the previous day where Sarah Gigante decided to explode the race. It was notable that both Ricardo and De Riter were both rested on the previous day.

Members of the peloton were the most critical of the neutralisation of the race, as there was a select group that had just attacked away from the peloton up the climb, but was brought back to the main bunch and also not given their chance to attack up the final major ascent of the race.

The peloton arrived in the impromptu pit stop and the race restarted with the three minute and thirty second lead of the riders reinstated for the remaining 10 kilometres of the course. The trio saved energy on the flat run into the finish, with one surge from Wilson covered by the others.

The final sprint saw De Riter launch first after taking a run at Wilson and Ricardo from behind, but Ricardo was able to respond and just pass the Queenslander on the line to secure her maiden NRS win.

Post-race interview with Gina Ricardo