TOMORROW’S criterium in Bendigo’s central business district will be the biggest street cycling race Castlemaine’s Emma Jackson has contested in her adopted home town.
Now living in Golden Square and working at Bendigo Bank, Jackson will be keen to perform well in the finale to the Hume & Iser Home Hardware Bendigo Grand Prix and Victorian Open road cycling championships, which started in yesterday’s time trials at Emu Creek and includes today’s road race on the Spring Gully circuit.
While some have lined up for all three events, Jackson’s sole goal at the Victorian Open is the 25.5km criterium, which starts at 1pm near the Centrelink offices.
Racing for the women’s field includes 11 sprints during the duel along Lyttleton Terrace and Williamson, Myers and Mundy streets.
The race winner will be decided after 30 laps of fast-paced action.
“Having the Victorian Open in Bendigo is fantastic for the city,” Jackson said.
“It’s the biggest criterium I will have contested in Bendigo.”
The 25-year-old expects the pace to be high from the first lap until the last, with the field to be strung out along Lyttleton Terrace and Myers Street.
The quality and quantity in women’s cycling events has increased dramatically since Jackson started racing more than 17 years ago.
“When I started there were not many girls racing,” Jackson, nee Waldron, said of early days racing around the Castlemaine track.
As a young girl she tagged along to the track with her dad, Ken, who was and still is racing.
“I started racing when I was eight and have had so much fun,” said Jackson.
Her siblings, Morgan and Sophie, also took on cycling.
“We were like a lot of families in going to races all over the place.”
The trend has rolled on as Emma’s husband, Daniel, is a racing cyclist, as is her stepdaughter, Ashley.
“I encourage the younger girls racing as much as I can. They are the sport’s future, not that I am ready to give away racing just yet.”
Being on annual leave has meant the Bendigo Bank customer service officer has put in more time training on the road.
Jackson goes into tomorrow’s race having gained a lot of confidence from her victory at Cranbourne’s Casey Fields in the opening round of the Red Star Coffee Grand Prix series. Her mid-December win meant she and Nicole Whitburn are joint leaders in the four-round series being run by Cykel.
“There’s no way I was the quickest rider in the field, but race smarts helped a lot,” she said of her win.
On the track, Jackson won bronze at the Victorian omnium championship, a six-discipline contest.
Jackson said she was amazed by the turnout , 129 riders, for the opening round of the criterium series at Cranbourne.
Tomorrow’s race past the City of Greater Bendigo office precinct and Town Hall is a key build-up for the Cykel-run series leg in Bendigo on February 3.
Entry numbers for Bendigo’s leg of the Red Star Coffee GP were so high a third grade was added.
After round one, Jackson and Whitburn are locked on 25 points, with Jenny Macpherson next best on 24, ahead of Grace Phang and Bendigo’s Kate Finegan, 21 points.
“It’s fantastic for the sport that Rob Carson and Cykel are putting this series on,” the series joint leader said of races which have drawn competitors from many parts of Victoria.
Jackson and her Red Star Coffee team-mates scored 39 points to lead the race for the teams award from SKCC Red 36, Liv-Giant 35, Bicycle Superstore 35, Southern Masters 34, and the Bendigo-based Building Champions Squad 33.
“I was at last year’s criterium at Mayfair Park, but watching, not racing,” said Jackson.
In a few weeks’ time, her mum Noelene will be keenly watching her daughter hurtle around the East Bendigo circuit.
After round two, cyclists will gear up to compete in the March 3 leg at a venue to be advised. The series finale is on March 23 at Yarra Boulevard in Burnley.
Jackson’s cycling pursuits, which include Bendigo’s track racing on Thursday night, are helped along by Central Kitchens Bendigo, Harding Cycles, Subway, Ken Of All Trades, East End Servo, and the Bridge Hotel.
“I am not doing as many track carnivals this year, but am really looking forward to the Bendigo International Madison,” she said of the rich athletics-cycling carnival run on the Labour Day holiday weekend in March.