Chapman weathers brutal heat in inaugural Race Torquay with bold attack

Credit: Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race/Tim de Waele

A long break for Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitane Futuroscope) resulted in a memorable win for the attacking rider at Race Torquay, the lead-up event for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

Chapman’s hard work had seen her justly rewarded, after heartbreak with a late catch from a similar breakaway move at the Tour Down Under. Her long toil in the breakaway was rewarded this time, with the effusive Aussie full of joy after the race.

“I am a bit addicted to gambling in bikes races,” said Chapman, “sometimes it pays off, other times it doesn’t. It just about having fun and really racing.

Chapman made her final move almost by accident as she led through a corner and found herself with an advantage as a rider behind had dropped her wheel.

“I didn’t come to this race today like ‘I’m going to win this by myself,” said Chapman, “but I came through the corner first, had a look behind to see who would roll through next and I had so I thought ‘just going to hit it. Just two kilometres to go so I can empty the tank now, in two kilometres I can stop’.”

The early laps of the race were conducting in gradually rising temperatures, from 32 degrees Celsius to a sweltering maximum of 39 degrees. The first lap was a sedate pace, but the tempo picked up in the second lap of the 13.3 kilometre course, with the climbers making the race hard on the three short ascents on course.

“I often struggle in the early part of the race with all the intensity but as the race goes along I find my rhythm,” said Chapman. “It really does come down to some self-talk. I was like ‘I know I’ve got all these negative feelings in my body of heat and exhaustion, but just tell yourself that your legs are good, keep eating, drinking and breathe out, all that sort of stuff.”

Anastasia Chursina (Ale BTC Ljubljana) formed a lone breakaway on second lap of the race, a solo rider against the might of the peloton who at that stage, were keen to see the race kept close.

It all came back together as the sprint for the first prime came up, with the fourth lap set to really start the fireworks.

Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) hit the front and forced the pace at the front, fracturing the peloton. Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott) attempted a brief attack, but there were plenty of riders behind, and with no one willing to bridge, Brown slipped back into the main bunch.

Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitane Futuroscope) and Denisse Ahumada Riquelme (Agolico) attacked on the fifth lap of the race, with the peloton letting them get a decent advantage as they pushed on. Riquelme was dropped as the course tilted upwards again and the impetus went out of the move as Chapman slowed down to a more measured tempo.

“One of the girls attacked and I followed as I happened to be near the front,” said Chapman. “I countered straight off it and kept going. I feel that if you want a breakaway to go, you can’t hesitate.

“My teammates were telling me that there was another girl coming across, so I waited for her. I was really stoked that we could work together for as long as we did. I was out there solo, so I was bit in between how much do I wait and how much do I push it.”   

Shortly after, the peloton lit up the race on the sixth lap of eight, with recent Tour Down Under champion Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) prominent. Stephens was the beneficiary after the USA national champion had been brought back into the fold, forging her way across to the lone figure of Chapman.

Chapman lasted long enough solo to take the second intermediate sprint, then sitting up to let Stephens join her. The pair had an advantage of two minutes and thirty-two seconds, with the peloton not keen to put a concerted chase to bring back the escaped duo. Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo) attacked on the second last lap from a peloton limping along in the heat, with Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt-Attaquer) answering the attack to jump over and join Wiles’ effort.

“I heard Lauren (Stephens) was coming across and then she told me Tayler (Wiles) and Emily (Herfoss) were, that was the most perfect breakaway,’ said Chapman. “Chapeau to those girls, super strong and I really like how they race as well.”

The pair made very good time over to the breakaway, coming over the line for the final 13.3 kilometre lap with just 30 seconds to make up on Chapman and Stephens. The peloton made their way across the line for the final lap with a minute and thirty-six seconds deficit, setting up a touch and go finish.

Wiles and Herfoss bridged across to the leaders on the first climb of the lap, with Herfoss looking the strongest on the climbs, gapping the other three riders on the steep sections of the ascents. A few small surges threatened to disrupt the lead riders tempo, but they committed and worked together into the final kilometres when Chapman sensed an opportunity and stretched it out into a race-winning attack.

Wiles tried to make up the gap, but Chapman soloed in for the win, while a fast-finishing Herfoss overcame Wiles late to take second.

Chapman has made her career on attacks that either succeed dramatically or get overhauled close to the line, like her last effort at the Tour Down Under Stage 1, where a long solo move was swamped in the final kilometre. Chapman spoke to what she was feeling out on the road.

“Don’t be that predictable rider who goes until she doesn’t,” worried Chapman. “I didn’t actually think I’d be out there that long, but you have to make these decisions on the fly, that’s what I did today.”

A thrilled Chapman had a nearly awed expression on the podium as the race ambassador Cadel Evans, handed her award and spoke some complimentary words after the finish. Chapman was asked what she was thinking at that moment.

“It’s bloody Cadel Evans, it’s so good,” enthused Chapman. “It’s his race and he’s here presenting it. He’s Australia’s only Tour de France winner and he came from a mountain bike background.

“Of course, all of us look up to Cadel, he’s a household name and to have him present an award to me is really special.”

Chapman is a popular winner within the peloton, a super engaging and enthusiastic character whom no one will begrudge the victory.

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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger