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Battle on the Border

My ‘Battle on the Border’ started by holding a disposable nappy to the forehead of my training partner Lucy Kirk. Our team of ten Suzuki-Bontrager and ACTAS riders were out on an easy training ride after the long travel day from Canberra to the Gold Coast (via Melbourne). Sam Sautelle had gone one better and driven up with our coach and manager over two days so we could be rock stars and fly without our bikes or equipment.

With Gold Coast local Emily Roper leading the way, we set out to Casuarina. We had been on the bike for a little more than 10min from our accommodation in Kingscliff when Lucy, who was riding at the back of the bunch next to Sue Powell, caught the lip between the bike lane and the busy Tweed Coast Road and was flung off her bike into the lane of traffic. Fortunately there were no cars immediately near us at the time. One second Lucy was chatting to Sue, and the next she was gone.

Someone in our group yelled out “we’ve lost someone”. My immediate thought was “how did someone get lost” and that maybe they had taken a wrong turn at the last intersection. Strange.

When I turned around a rider in ACTAS kit was sprawled face-first across the road and was not moving. I quickly took stock. There were three girls in ACTAS kit. Sue was standing close-by so it wasn’t her. And I could see Maddy Marshall so it wasn’t her. Shit, Lucy. The public were pretty amazing. Everyone stopped. A couple of Good Samaritans ran to her with a warm blanket and another with a disposable nappy when they could see the pool of blood on the road coming from a nasty deep gash on her forehead. Her helmet had copped a big knock and possibly saved her life.

The team went into damage control. Laura Meadley and Sam, at the sight of blood bolted and positioned themselves on either side of the road to direct traffic away from Lucy. Alex Nicholls reported the crash to our coach and manager. I called the ambulance, then went to sit with Lucy who was disorientated and in shock; and relieve the kind gentleman who had been holding the nappy to soak up the blood. It was a true example of teamwork. I thought about taking a photo of Laura with her hand up to the traffic. She was serious and focused, but I could see the humour of a slim, blonde, young woman in hot-pink bike kit stopping traffic. Literally. I’m told she got a couple of winks during that 30min.

I recalled the story to Lucy later and she was almost disappointed I hadn’t captured that moment. She said something like “you’re a journalist Beck, that’s your job”. I guess the seriousness of the situation got the better of me, and might explain why I left newspaper journalism six years ago when asked to move from the sport desk to news.

The ambulance arrived and I travelled with Lucy to Tweed Hospital with our coach Glenn. She had short-term memory loss and required a CT scan which was later cleared. She also got the gash stitched up and was in good spirits when I left her after four hours. We joked that we should post a selfie of us to social media with the line “chamois time is training time” cause we got plenty of it that afternoon. They kept her in for observation overnight but she will make a full recovery.

It was an exhausting day and not the most ideal start to the Tour. It is a side of the sport which is inevitable, but never nice to see, or be involved in.

My ‘Battle on the Border’ finished on the podium. In the days in-between, I had won the individual time trial; to add to my Mersey Valley win, and had put myself in a position to win the final road race. I had punched up the final rise to move to the lead at the roundabout into the Salt Village. I was cautious on the second last corner of the finishing circuit which was still wet from rain overnight, and then got a bit excited with only one right-hand corner between me and the win. I carried a bit too much speed into the turn and almost steered my bike into the barrier lining the finish straight. I braked and redirected my bike to the finish line. In the meantime Chloe McConville powered through on the inside to easily take the win. I crossed the line bitterly disappointed. I behaved like a spoilt sprinter for the next couple of hours. It was frustrating to get so close and make a mistake at such a crucial time. But that’s bike racing. It’s exciting, dynamic, and it can be so rewarding. It can also frustrate you and keep you awake at night as you replay the race over and over.

In finishing second however, I had secured enough bonus time to jump past Katrin Garfoot and steal third on GC. It was great to get Suzuki-Bontrager on the podium for the stage and overall. My teammate Emily Roper also secured the sprinters jersey. Once again Cycling Central produced video highlights of each stage, including my TT win.

I am back in Canberra until Friday before heading to Adelaide to join the JAYCO-AIS Womens’ Endurance Squad for a training camp ahead of the next round of the National Road Series – the Adelaide Tour.

Rebecca Wiasak