Etch this name in the record books of international sport in the country. The name is Rebecca Marley.
She won for the third time the Women’s Tour of the Ford Tour of Samoa which ended on Saturday. She has become the most successful rider, male or female, in the short history of the tour.
Rebecca’s win on Saturday was by no means a foregone conclusion. She had a willing rival in Katheren Leitner. The racing between the two was tense at times. Leitner, who last toured in 2015, is a mountain goat on the hills and she rightly relieved Rebecca of the leader’s pink jersey for two of the stages on day 1.
Rebecca started the tour wearing the leader’s jersey as the reigning winner and just managed to hold on to it when Katheren punctured on the hills at Le Mafa and Afulilo. Her lead was a slim 1min 30secs. It was a target that could be chased down.
Katheren obliged and wiped the deficit with a very strong ride on stage 2 from Lalomanu to Maninoa, by a whopping 5 plus minutes. She then added another 10secs on stage 1 of day 2 with another strong climb at Cross Island road enroute to the ferry.
The women’s race all of a sudden looked like there was a new champion to be crowned. But it was early days and with the big hills out of the way for now, Rebecca’s team got together to get their rider home.
On stage 2 of day 2, the very fast ride from Salelologa to Manase, Rebecca’s deficit was entirely wiped when she crossed the line at Manase ahead of Katheren by a massive 7mins 21secs.
Katheren took it too easy on the flats, and she needed some friends to help her out.
She made up some time on the individual Time Trial the next day to Asau (2mins 39secs) by again dominating the hills through Aopo but not enough. Rebecca now led by just over 5 minutes going into the 100km Challenge on the last racing day of the tour.
Rebecca’s task was simple. Ride well, stay out of trouble and keep an eye on her rival. For Katheren, there were three hills on this stage that she needed to dominate. This is where Marley’s championship status was fully revealed.
She totally controlled that climb by not letting Katheren out of sight. When that happened, the race was hers. Even if Katheren stole a march on her rival, it would have all been taken back when she was brought down in a crash with a few kilometres from the finish at Amoa Resort. It would have been an interesting finale.
That crash wasn’t her fault, and it aptly describes that kind of luck that can happen to the best of riders at these tours. Puncture on day 1 and a crash on day two did not help Katheren’s cause. Nor did the brilliance of the women’s champion who rode the last stage and gave it all she had.
Rebecca also took full advantage of her strengths in the flats to pile on the minutes on the flats. The women’s tour this year was tense and tactical, something that Rebecca and her team managed so well.
You are a true champion Rebecca Marley!