As history has shown, the women’s race in the World 24 Hour Solo championships, often provides not just as much excitement as the mens, but often more. This was shown in 2010 and again in 2013, where both years had exciting “down to the wire” finishes and female fields that were at least 40% of the men’s field in terms of numbers.
This tells you that women love to hurt.
Wembo 2016 will see a star studded field take to the trails of Rotorua. I see no less than 4 possible contenders in the field and with a super fast course I predict some close racing.
The Improver - Kate Penglase
The tiny Kate is one of the biggest improvers on the world 24 hour stage. We’ve seen her improve over the years in not just her ability to “go hard” but also her professional approach to her craft. With a string of podium places over the past 4 years including a 2nd at the Aussie 24 champs in 2015 and a 4th in 2015 at Weaverville, Kate has proven that she’s the real deal. Perhaps she won’t have quite the pace of some of the other girls early on, but she will bury herself in her quest for a podium. - Prediction 4th.
The Veteran - Erin Green
It’s amazing to think of Erin as a veteran but that’s what she is. With a 5th in 2010 Erin proved even back then that she has what it takes to perform in an elite field.
I’ve personally seen Erin with full race mode on and she’s an incredible athlete when that happens… I’ve also seen her “drop her head” which any athlete can do from time to time, so this is what she will need to overcome.
Erin is a true pro rider having travelled the world to race… and she’s probably the only one in the field who has raced the defending champ Sonya Looney, when they raced each other in Mongolia in 2013. During that event Erin was able to match it with Sonya on a number of days.
With the local advantage on her side, expect Erin to charge out from the blocks and possibly even lead the race for some way. If Erin can bring everything she needs to this weekend, then she can become a world champ. - Prediction 3rd.
The Gun - Liz Smith
Liz has been the “no so quiet” quiet achiever of Australian 24 hour racing. Having won a number of Green n Gold jerseys and having shown that she could “take it” to the best in the world, when she more than challenged Jessica Douglas in 2015 Aussie Titles and when along with Eliza Kwan, she lead the 2013 World champs race in Canberra for the first 7 hours.
Liz has grown into an amazing rider with raw speed, which is often the hidden ingredient that some 24 hour riders never seem to be able to develop. Her speed has been on show at a number of 6 hour and 3 hour races in Australia over the past couple of years, when she has beaten many elite girls at the shorter distance… again something that many 24 hour riders often fail to be able to achieve.
Liz is possibly the rider who has the chance of taking it to Sonya this weekend, if she can back herself and completely destroy herself. Watch out for Liz leading the race early on and maybe even continuing for the whole distance. Make no mistake, Liz can win this race. - Prediction 1st
The Champ - Sonya Looney
I got to see Sonya in the flesh for the first time at the Mongolia Bike Challenge in 2013 during Jessica Douglas’ build up for the 2013 season. What struck me about Sonya is that for a highly professional, highly dedicated, supremely talented rider… she was just so bloody nice that it almost made me sick!
Jokes aside, Sonya is the one to beat. Her abilities on the bike on only surpassed by her speaking abilities as she’s also now a TEDx speaker.
The challenge for Sonya will be that with a course that is certainly not “climby”, will Sonya be able to exploit her other strengths now that her major card (her ability to climb) has been removed. When I saw her in Mongolia she certainly displayed fantastic speed on the flat, being able to hang onto large groups of male riders as the sped across the flat Mongolia landscape.
Will Sonya just destroy the field? I think not. Has she been able to keep her training going after a whirlwind tour of showing off her World Champs Jersey? Can she handle the fast and furious speed that will be on show on the Rotorua trails? Time will tell. I think we’ll see Sonya, Erin and Liz try and burn off all other contenders probably within the first 6 hours and maybe we’ll then see if Sonya has what many think she has. - Prediction 2nd
So there you have it, my prediction of 2016… I’m a big fan of all 4 girls and I think we’ll see an amazing race which I just can’t wait to see.
My message to all the girls is something that Jess Douglas said to herself on the start line of the 2010 World 24 hour champs, in what would become the first of 3 titles for her... "one of us will become the world champ after this race... why not me"