When Olivia Ray told the team that she was to begin her season on January 23 at the UCI Gravel and Tar la Femme road race, she was asked what she thought her prospects were. Her response? “Hmm winning it! I’m confident in my training and ability that I can pull it off.”
And pull it off she did. While competing for the New Zealand national team, Ray won the final sprint from an elite group of riders at the end of the 87 km event.
“I’m super happy with the result. Instead of being full of nerves at the start, I was more interested in having fun. That attitude helped me relax, avoid the crashes in the gravel, and make the final selection. When I saw 500 metres to go, no one tried to get away, so at 200 metres I stood up, cramped, and powered ahead.”
Ray’s victory marks the first by a Rally Cycling rider in 2021. Ahead of the women’s programme’s official start in March, it is a positive sign of things to come.
“This win has given me a real sense of ‘the training is working, the head is motivated and the body is fighting’. I had a chance to show what I can do and it gives me the confidence I was looking for.”
When asked how she ranks gravel road races to criteriums, the Kiwi criterium champion didn’t skip a beat.
“Nothing beats a crit in my opinion, however, I found the gravel sectors gave you something to do. Instead of just climbing, it was trying to stay upright as well. It took technique, strength, and mental preparedness. If all road races had some gravel I wouldn’t be mad.”
1 Ray Olivia New Zealand 2:24:28
2 Lucas Sharlotte New Zealand 0:02
3 Mcmullen Rylee Andy Schleck – CP NVST – Immo Losch ”
4 Evans Alicia New Zealand 0:04
5 Wilcox Josie Black Dirt Collective 0:05
6 Mccallum Kirsty NZ Cycling Project 0:24
7 Christie Henrietta NZ Cycling Project 0:25
8 Macgregor Bronwyn The Tank Guy 1:11
9 Richards Katie Chain Breakers 1:30
10 Danford Georgia Andy Schleck – CP NVST – Immo Losch 3:59
(Lead image courtesy of Wayne Belk/Gravel and Tar)