• Peta Mullens shows off the Roxsolt Liv SRAM colours (Mason Hender/Roxsolt Liv SRAM)Source: Mason Hender/Roxsolt Liv SRAM
Multi-discipline Australian national champion Peta Mullens is leading the way in women's cycling development, giving opportunities to up and coming Roxsolt Liv SRAM riders across a variety of race formats. Leading by example, Mullens took out the opening stage of the Santos Festival of Cycling yesterday with a canny sprint.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

22 Jan - 9:12 AM 

It was a surprisingly aggressive opening stage of the Festival of Cycling, the replacement event for the cancelled Tour Down Under. Mullens came into the final sprint against noted exponents Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women's Racing) and Ruby Roseman-Gannon (ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) but it was the 32-year-old who emerged as the winner.

"I think Ruby, Matilda and I are all quite similar sprinters," said Mullens. "Ruby has more track speed and Matilda a bit more strength. I do think today's sprint was quite unique, we came into without much speed and the false flat was quite deceivingly slow.

"That made it difficult to time the sprint and we don't often get the chance to do sprints in reduced bunches like it was here. It was probably a bit of experience over youth there."

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Mullens launched her sprint and immediately stole several lengths on her rivals as Roseman-Gannon struggled to get clear running through the clustered group.

"The wind had been coming from the left along that straight for the whole race, but that last couple of hundred metres, well maybe from 500 metres to 300 metres to go was quite protected," said Mullens. "So I think it's obvious from the birdseye that the wind's coming from the left and we're all lined up that way.

"It was a long way to go and everyone was lined up on the right side of their wheels and the wind had died off that little bit, so I thought this is probably a chance to sneak up the left and catch them off guard.

"I had a little more power left than I anticipated, when I left I thought I'd gone too early, I think that's what everyone fears but I felt really good all the way to the line. It was great, I had felt that my sprint was lacking a bit at the National Road Series racing in the Tweed."

The fact that the race had even gotten to this stage was the result of an unlikely script, one that saw a bit of foxing from Team BikeExchange as their stated pre-race leader Grace Brown had sacrificed her chances for Lucy Kennedy to try and get away on the climb.

"It was a smaller group than I what I thought it would be after we saw the climb for the first time, I thought we'd have 30 girls in that selection," said Mullens. "BikeExchange were really impressive into the bottom of that climb, they were definitely all-in for one rider and then Grace Brown did two really strong attacks that dragged the field out. They definitely wanted to have Lucy (Kennedy) up the road with as few people as possible, and the group was definitely bigger than they wanted it to be.

"With five Specialized in there, we didn't feel that it was our responsibility to dictate the race, we flew under the radar a bit and I wound up a pretty good sprint and was able to take the stage."

Mullens co-owns the Roxsolt Liv SRAM squad along with founder Kelvin Rundle and teammate Justine Barrow, and 2021 has been one where they will expand their race plans to a cyclocross and mountain bike season alongside the road. 

"Kelvin from Roxsolt and myself are just huge supporters of women's cycling in all aspects," said Mullens. "I've loved it all, across the dirt, the gravel, cyclocross and it just made sense that I would share that love and those opportunities with the team.

"It's a shame that we haven't been able to participate in the other events across the Santos Festival of Cycling, we've had to absorb the mountain bike riders into the road team as the focus for this week, but we've got a packed calendar for this year across the other disciplines.

"We go to road nationals and probably the next big target after that is mountain-bike nationals."

Mullens is very much the model of the benefits from a multi-discipline approach, winning national titles on the road, the track, in cyclocross and in a host of different mountain-bike variants. As a result, some on social media poked a bit of fun at a post-race interviewer that asked Mullens if she was comfortable with a gravel section on Stage 2.

"I didn't know whether it was a bit tongue-in-cheek from him or not," Mullens said. "I'm always really excited with the courses that they design here are so dynamic and exciting. I'm really interested to see what Kimberly (Conte, race director) has for us tomorrow.

"I've ridden in Adelaide ten years in a row and every time I do, there's a new climb, a new gravel section to make for an exciting bike race."

The Festival of Cycling continues with Stage 2 from Birdwood to Lobethal.