In His Own Words: Sport Director Dave McPartland on Chongming Island World Cup

Sun 12 May 2013

Jessie MacLean (@aussiejessmac) captured the sentiment of ORICA-AIS in a post-race tweet: “I feel like we were invited to the party but kicked out before the music started.” The Chongming Island World Cup ended in calamity after the peloton took a wrong turn 1.2 kilometres from the finish line. With a lone leader up the road, the bunch was left to race for second place as a result of the error.

Emma Johansson took third in the field sprint, good for fourth overall. The Swede jumped up to second in the World Cup standings, 72 points behind World Cup leader Marianne Vos (Rabobank) who elected not to race in China. In his own words, Sport Director Dave McPartland describes what he called a ‘disappointing finish’ to the team’s time in China.

The Chongming World Cup is another pan-flat race, and we were banking on another bunch sprint. We had planned to keep the race together and do a sprint for Emma at the finish. We were motivated to help her move up in the World Cup standings, and we knew she had the form to contend for the win. She’s been fast in the sprint train for Nettie [Edmondson], and it was a good chance for a bit of a role reversal.

There were heaps of attacks in the first half of the race coming from teams without a sprinter. We expected that, and along with the teams with an interest in a sprint, we were able to respond to each. It was quite aggressive at this point of the race with many moves going up the road but nothing stay away.

After the first intermediate sprint and just before the tunnel, a break of two riders escaped. They were the most significant move in the early action. The duo stayed away for around ten kilometres.

There were a lot of punctures during the mid-point of the race, which made things quite hectic for awhile. By the second half the race, things had calmed down. The girls felt good, and our confidence was growing.

Fifteen kilometres from the finish, Tetyana Riabchenko (Chirio Forno d’Asolo) attacked. She gained a maximum of 42” over the field. We played a calm game of cat and mouse as we headed toward the finish and left the chase to Wiggle Honda and Team TIBCO initially. In hindsight, this risk may have been a bit of mistake. We have fast girls, but we don’t have pure sprinters like Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) and Shelley Olds (Team TIBCO). Although we’re confident in our sprint train, we wanted to see their sprint trains work to bring back the leader.

When we saw that we’d need to contribute at the front, I pulled [Sungeun] Gu from our train and asked her to work. Faren-Let's Go Finland had the same idea, and their rider joined Gu in the chase. Unfortunately, this wasn’t as effective as we had hoped.

As we passed the two kilometre sign, the gap was around 34”, so it had come down slightly. We made a left-hander just outside the hotel where we were staying, and the girls knew they were to hit the front after that. We had timed it to perfection. Apart from Gu, who had just been chasing, they all come together exactly as planned.

At the next intersection, things turned chaotic very quickly. The peloton quite naturally turned left as they approached a massive three lane freeway. There was traffic in the opposite direction, so they turned left onto the portion of road on which cars would drive.

Every other corner in the race had a corner marshal. This intersection had a police officer directing traffic but lacked any sort of indication in the form of a person or a sign indication which way the girls were meant to go. The lane they choose seemed like the obvious choice, especially without anything to suggest otherwise.

Three hundred metres past the intersection, the peloton rode into bunting across the road. They were forced to come to a complete stop as were all the team cars that had followed them. We could see spectators looking on the main side of the road and quickly realised that we had been misdirected. By that time, Riabchenko was steaming along in the correct direction and that was it. The win had gone up the road because of a silly mistake.

Our girls were the first to reach the bunting. They got underneath, pushed their way through the crowds and made it back onto the course. By the time they got up to speed, other teams had joined us. It was confusion left, right and centre.

The girls did what they could and still managed to put together a reasonable sprint. Nettie was before Mel [Hoskins], and Mel took Emma to the finish. Bronzini came around just before the line as did Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano). We later learned we had finished 12” behind Riabchenko, which is pretty incredible considering all that happened in the end.

I’m gutted for the girls. We stuck to our plan. We might have risked it with the chase, but we backed ourselves. We did a great lead out in tense conditions, and we missed out on the podium because we weren’t racing for the win.

I lodged a complaint with the head commissaire after the race. While I’m obviously aware that it is the riders’ responsibility to know the course, I felt it was important to voice my concern. The corner wasn’t marked in any way, and there was no one standing there to direct the race. Every other corner had some sort of directional indication, and it seems like a huge error on the part of the race organisation not do the same on a critical corner so close to the finish.

The commissaire with whom I spoke went down to the corner to look at where things went wrong. They have since apologised for the error but elected against amending the results.