Gutsy Mullens grinds her way to grand prix victory

Bendigo’s Peta Mullens came armed with an excuse to yesterday’s Red Star Coffee Women’s Grand Prix division one criterium, but she didn’t need it.

After riding 100km with the Bendigo and District Cycling Club in the morning Mullens didn’t expect to be in contention in round two at Mayfair Park.

But the 24-year-old Target Trek rider had enough in the tank to hold-off Nicole Whitburn in a sprint to the line, with another Bendigo cyclist Kate Finegan finishing third.

“I actually went out this morning and did 100km before the race; I did the men’s race this morning just to warm the legs up so I didn’t really have any expectations today,” Mullens said.

“I think that lack of pressure, if anything, kind of helped me – I knew I had my excuse there in case I didn’t pull it off.”

Mullens showed no signs of fatigue in a five-rider breakaway which lapped the peloton after 20 laps of the 800m circuit.

She, Finegan and Whitburn soon opened a 20-second lead on Jenny Macpherson and Lisa Hanley, before Macpherson dug deep to bridge the gap while Hanley dropped-off.

After 50 minutes the final three laps were called, leading to a four-way sprint finish with Mullens crossing the line half-a-wheel ahead of Whitburn to win her debut Women’s Grand Prix race.

“I was just waiting for Nicole to come at me, I thought ‘she’s coming, she’s coming’ and she came late and I just got her on the dive,” Mullens said.

“I definitely didn’t think I was going to win it at the start of the day. I just wanted to put on a good race for the Bendigo locals and it was great to have two Bendigo girls on the top split.”

Mullens is unlikely to race round three of the series as she switches to the mountain bike to defend her two Otway Odyssey titles, while also aiming for wins in round two of the national series in Thredbo and the national championships.

Whitburn leads the overall Grand Prix after winning round one, with Macpherson and Finegan close behind.

In division two yesterday, Hawthorn Cycling Club’s Deborah Richards won by more than 17 seconds from Monique Hanley, with Veronique Micich finishing third.

Georgie Heydon took out the division three criterium by almost 20 seconds from Sharon Gordon and Louise Clark.

Verita Stewart claimed victory in the novice criterium, ahead of Finegan’s mother Cheryle Barker and Sarah Mortley.

The next round of the Cykel Events series is at Casey Fields on March 3.

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