“In memory of Mardi Bartlett. Born into eternal life, March 1st 2014”.
Last Sunday marked the fourth edition of University of Queensland Cycling Club’s “Mardi Bartlett Classic” road race which was established in 2014 to honour the life of member, Mardi Bartlett, whose dream was to encourage more women into the sport of cycling. With a thirty strong field in each Women’s division, I hope that we did Mardi proud this year.
Held out at country town Mulgowie, the day started off at a brisk one degree as I made my way to the Mulgowie Hall to undertake my volunteer position on the Registration Desk. My job was to help riders register for the race, provide them with race numbers and safety pins and check their racing licenses. I was paired up with fellow UQCC member, Megan and the only thoughts on our minds was how darn cold it was. This proved to be helpful as I was concentrating too hard on thawing out as the day progressed to succumb to any nerves. I said “hello” to the other UQ girls in our race, wondering if our friendly rivals, Brisbane Cycling Club would have a race plan. I always laugh about race plans because during the actual event, such plans seem to 100 percent reliably go out the window. Then my training partner and friend, Cherie, arrived. Cherie also trains with Coach Liz and on a bike,is a force to be reckoned with. We were both looking forward to the opportunity to race together for the first time. By the time we got to the start line, our only plan was to get UQCC ladies on the podium.
The race started off benignly enough as everyone settled in and established the lie of the land. As we had to ride three laps of the same circuit, I think everyone was internally doing a little bit of reconnaissance. There is a short pinch hill at the end of the circuit and I was surprised to see a fellow competitor break early and scamper up the hill. Fortunately the UQCC girls were all positioned in a way where our bolting friend could break away, so the group stayed together during lap one.
During lap two, the same lady decided to attack the final climb early again, and sensing opportunity, I jumped on her wheel and used her speed as a bit of leverage to haul myself over the top of the climb. Suddenly I was alone on the descent. I had established a break coming off that second climb! I was excited, yet worried at the same time, thinking that there was no way I could stay away from a group of twenty plus riders by myself for an entire lap. However, I put my head down and decided to commit. Unluckily, fate had other plans as Elite A men started to roar past me, then slow and finish, neutralising my advantage. It meant that we were all together for lap three and although we started slowly, the girls from Brisbane Cycling Club started turning up the heat at the first corner.
To paraphrase Benedict Cumberbatch in “Sherlock Holmes”, “the race was ON”. This sudden burst of speed felt exhilarating and I vowed to give the closing stages my best shot. Cherie and I were staying close and fellow clubbie, Mandy, was doing a terrific job upping the intensity as well. Suddenly we came to the final climb and I hustled, jumping over the crest in about third from the front. I tucked down into the drops and screamed down the descent and as the road flattened, registration buddy Megan came flying by. I ducked behind Megan,knowing how formidable her sprinting is. Suddenly I heard Cherie, telling me she was right behind me. Knowing how well Cherie can sprint, I accelerated as hard as I could and she flew past me. It wasn’t quite enough to pip fast finishing Megan on the line but we had fulfilled our plan. Ladies of UQCC – 1st, 2nd and 4th (well done Erin!). Even though I didn’t receive a podium spot in my own right, it felt good knowing that our teamwork had paid off. Special mention must go to Mandy as well, who buried herself in the final stages of the race. It was great to see Fiona from Brisbane Cycling Club pick up third.
After the race, I saw Mardi’s parents, who had travelled to the event to present the perpetual trophy. It pleased me to no end that I was able to introduce myself and share the memories of their vivacious, energetic, and loving daughter who I had the pleasure of meeting just a few short weeks before her death. I hope that I conveyed to Mardi’s family that she will never be forgotten and that her spirit lives on in every woman that seizes the opportunity to participate in this event.
Summing up, it was a totally enjoyable race.I particularly enjoy racing with the Brisbane Cycling Club ladies who are great sports, no matter who seems to come out on top. It’s great to race in a community of women who encourage each other to be that little bit better every time we have a shot at racing. And Mardi? I think she’d be proud.