Lisen Hockings wins the women’s Oceania title while Sean Lake defended the elite men's title.

It was a seemingly suicidal attack when Lisen Hockings (Holden) launched with over 60km remaining in the 120km race for the Oceania Championships around the outskirts of Canberra on Friday. Holding off the peloton solo, she was strong enough to last all the way into the finish, despite being one of the marked riders going into the race.

Holding off the peloton solo, she was strong enough to last all the way into the finish, despite being one of the marked riders going into the race.

The race started out with the traditional softening up period as some of the lesser teams sought to establish early breakaways but the hammer was really put down by Hockings with her attack. The main bunch splintered behind as Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dreamteam) attempted to make for lost time on the climbs with only a select group able to follow the tall climber’s accelerations. The surges brought Hockings back almost within touching distance, but the Holden rider kept pushing on and was aided by two of her teammates sandbagging in the chasing group.

The gap continued to grow steadily from there with the final margin on the finish line a whopping three minutes and 17 seconds to teammate Shannon Malseed, the defending Oceania champion from last season while Kennedy slotted into third despite a combative ride. Hockings was understandably pleased with her performance after the team’s win, though she revealed she wasn’t the first choice for the victory.

“It was a bit reckless or maybe kamikaze…I was the sacrificial lamb out there today. The idea was to go from a long way out to help the team, forcing the other riders to work whilst my teammates got a nice sit, it just went a little better than I thought. I didn’t really expect to make it all the way, not until the last left hander into the home straight did I think that I’d actually make it.”

Hockings is on the recovery from a C2 vertebrae spinal fracture towards the end of last year after crashing in the Shimano SuperCrit. The 2016 National Road Series champion was hoping to get the chance to show herself against the best female riders in the world in the UCI racing and Australian nationals this summer but was forced to watch from the side of the road in a neck brace as other riders competed, winning races that Hockings would have gone into as a contender.

“There were some really hard moments in January, watching all the big names in cycling going around while I was stuck in a neck brace, not only not racing but not being able to ride at all. There are so many things that you miss, getting out on the bike with friends on the road and enjoying riding. That was the first thing that I got back to and these are my first races since.”

Hockings came to the sport late arriving on the cycling scene last year and surprising the established rider with her athleticism. The 37-year-old is also top of her field as an anesthesiologist but wouldn’t shut the door if bigger teams and competitive opportunities in Europe became available.

“I’ve always thought that I work best when I have other things in my life as well, so I take any opportunities to do things that I enjoy outside of work. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy what I do, I’ve committed a lot of energy to it and I wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t something I’m passionate about. Europe is something that I’ve thought about but I’ll take things as they come.”

Third-placed Lucy Kennedy was the object between the rock and a hard place as she had to battle against the seven-strong Holden lineup with just teammate Jessica Pratt. Coming off a strong summer where she was third at nationals, fourth at Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and won the Oceania time trial, she was frustrated with how the race played out.

“The odds were always going to be stacked against me, 20 per cent of the field was Holden and that was always going to make it difficult. It really was their race to lose and they rode really well to their advantage.”
The move of Hockings was launched on the flat and appeared to catch the whole group off guard, Kennedy included.

“I was getting water when she went so yeah, (the move) was pretty surprising. I didn’t doubt that she could stay away but it was disappointing. We got her back pretty close… unfortunately, we, the non-Holden riders, didn’t work as well as we could have.”

Kennedy was the form rider entering the race but couldn’t quite overcome the weight of numbers to force her chance at the victory.

“I definitely had a target on my back and Shannon (Malseed) glued to my wheel. I was never going to be allowed to get away. When Lisen came back to within 30 seconds it was probably then or never, it turned out to be never.”
Jessica Pratt (High5 Dreamteam) booked a comfortable win in the end in the under 23 women category as she was the only one in the classification to make the front group when the race split to pieces, in the end finishing over six minutes ahead of her nearest rival.

“I didn’t know how far back the other group of Under 23s were so I had to keep my position. After Nationals, where I got a spoke stuck in my leg and had to pull out, I’m pretty happy to win the Oceania title as Nationals was a big goal.”

The disappointment of her Nationals campaign aside, Pratt is considered one of the brightest young talents in Australian cycling and is keenly anticipating her future career.

“Immediately there’s the races in the NRS with the High5 Dreamteam coming up. Of course, I’d love to get a chance in Europe. Europe is where things happen in cycling and I’d love to race against the international girls.”

Monday 13 Mar 2017

It was a 1-2-3 for Michelton-Scott in their debut race as they completed a podium sweep of the under 23 Oceania Championships in Canberra. Lucas Hamilton was first across the finish, beating out Michael Storer and Jai Hindley in the dash to the line after the leading trio had dropped everyone except Sean Lake (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness). Lake was riding his own race for the elite title and ended with the odd situation where he sat up whilst the Under 23s sprinted for the finish, content that he had the elite title sewn up.

It was a very hard day in the saddle for the 110-strong peloton, the 32 degree heat was not helped by the challenging terrain, which saw riders having to cope with a rapid succession of climbs throughout the race. A steady flow of riders were shelled off the back of the peloton in the opening kilometres before a move was finally formed.

Jason Lea (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness), Brad Evans (Drapac-Pat’s Veg) and new St George Continental recruit Marcus Culey were the successful three out a flurry of attacks that tried to escape from the main bunch. The trio worked together well but never allowed much of a leash, with their greatest advantage getting out to two minutes and eight seconds.

From there, the move was reeled back in gradually with the start of the first of two finishing circuits seeing the catch of the early move. The pace was accelerated on the main climb of the day Mt McDonald which was followed by multiple attacks on the Three Sisters. An elite group of 10 riders formed off the front and speared off in pursuit of victory with most of the major names present.

A small regrouping occurred through the start of the final circuit but the Michelton-Scott team again applied the pressure on the climbs. Jesse Featonby (Drapac-Pat’s Veg), Sean Lake and Jason Christie were the only elite riders to be able to match it with the youngsters. Christie was dropped and Featonby tried an attack of his own but it didn’t get enough of an advantage as he was caught by Lake, Hamilton, Hindley and Storer as they came to the Three Sisters again.

Another forcing of the pace dropped Featonby and it was just Lake left on the rolling descent to the finish. A short-lived attack from Storer was brought back by Lake and the Michelton-Scott trio was content to sit on Lake’s wheel as he was happy to work for his elite win. The three then sprinted against each other in the run to the line with Hamilton taking the win by over a bike length from Storer with Hindley third.

The team congratulated each other as a whole after the event with the spirit of the group clearly well intact after strong showings throughout the Australian summer. Hamilton spoke after taking one of the biggest wins of his career.

“It was one of those races where you just stomp the pedals all day,” said Hamilton. “It was always up or down, there was no flat. For us, we wanted to make sure that it was a climbing race and the climbs were the selective part.”

Coming off the Herald Sun Tour where Hindley took second, Storer fifth and Hamilton seventh, the young stars of Australia clearly delivered a message to their older opponents that a generational shift is on its way.
“We came into the racing probably lacking numbers but to be the young guys and probably some of the favourites, it was something to be proud of. Then to deliver, it was even more special.”

Competition between teammates for places can lead to awkward situations but it was simple enough in the end for Michelton-Scott as they left it for the sprint to decide things.

“We just raced to the line as usual,” said Hamilton. “We definitely had the numbers in the moves but to get a complete podium is not a bad effort, especially as we were debuting the new team colours.”

Sean Lake was the elite winner after proving himself again that he has what it takes to be at the top in the one-day races. He becomes the only rider to have completed the double win in the road race and time trial after managing the same feat last year after taking advantage of getting in the early breakaway to win.

“I guess last year was more of a surprise,” said Lake, “this year I was really targeting it and looking to go well on what was a really hard course. It was a bit interesting with all the young guys mixing it up and the World Tour Academy guys were all really good. I couldn’t get rid of any of them but it feels good to take out the elite category.”

The wins come as almost completely different performances. Lake was pigeon-holed as a powerful racer with bulky former rower not rated over the climbs as much as others. He has slimmed down a lot since and has shown that he has the potential to climb with the best.

“That’s absolutely it,” said Lake, “I’ve really changed the type of rider that I am. Now I’ve got the confidence and lost a bit of weight I can climb really well. Instead of having to rely on an audacious move from the break I can wait and play with the big dogs and fight for the win that way.”

The dynamic of having the under 23 race with the elite men's was an odd one out on course as teams and race radio scrambled to work out which riders were still in contention in the chasing groups. Despite having a host of Under 23 riders around him, Lake remained focused on the senior event with the heat of the day playing to his advantage.

“It was a bit awkward but before that, I was playing the game with the other elite guys that were around, Jesse Featonby and Jason Christie. I managed to get rid of them eventually. That’s what I had to do and not worry about any of the Under 23 guys. I think every single long race that I’ve won has been really hot weather. I love it, really enjoy the heat.”

Lake will have a number of opportunities to show off his climbing form in high profile Asian racing, with the Tour de Taiwan next on the agenda for the Victorian.

“There are some really good races coming up to try my legs, the Tour de Taiwan is a really high-level race. If I am climbing with the big dogs then that’s my opportunity to show that I’ve really changed the type of rider that I am.”
Neil van der Ploeg (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness) pulled off a gutsy silver medal, just outsprinting fellow Albury local Jesse Featonby (Drapac-Pat’s Veg) in the reduced bunch sprint behind the four leaders.