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.”