Only a week after the northern new south wales NRS race (QSM Sports, Battle on the Border), the men's next NRS race was on at Toowoomba. This year the organisers decided to mix it up a bit, and hold a women's invitational criterium on the last day of the men's race. The men's event is sponsored by long-time supporter FKG, but in the last few weeks before the women's race, another sponsor put their hand up (McDonalds in Toowoomba).
The thought is that if there is enough continuing interest, then the organisers may be able to make the women's event into a bigger two-day event, perhaps even an NRS one in conjunction with the men. Let's hope so!
The circuit around Queen's Park in Toowoomba is about 2.4km, and is quite a scenic one, with lots of large shady trees, and historic homes.
The roads are nice and wide (so it allows generally for some really safe racing), and there are some nice fast downhill sections, as well as a deceptively tough, leg sapping, but gradual, 3-5% climb into a strong headwind (apparently the wind always blows in the same direction, and the T'ba locals call it Mount Margaret, since it's up Margaret street).
We had close to thirty women register to race, with Ruth Corset (current NRS leader's jersey holder, Pensar), Emily Roper (current U23 champ, Suzuki Trek), and Jasmin Hurikino (current Qld criterium champ, Campos) all making an effort to drive "up the range" to T'ba. Many other teams also made sure their team was represented (Riders Morningside, Specialized Securitor, Data #3, MB cycles, QSM racing) which was great to see, and even Kendelle Hodges (VIS) stayed up in Qld a bit longer to do this race.
The pace was fast from the start, and the girls were keen to race aggressively. In only a few laps, the field was split up into the main breakaway group of four, and then several chasing groups.
By the end, the initial breakaway worked well together and finished well on the podium (Ruth 1st, Kendelle 2nd, Emily 3rd, and Jasmin 4th) with Zoe Watters (Pensar) and Liz Young (UQ) winning their chasing bunch sprint for 5th and 6th spots.
Kudos also to the several U17/19 girls in the race who did their best and finished! Thanks to Lynette Douglas Parker for the photos!