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Elite cyclists swap bikes for boats in Geelong Sailing Challenge as part of the Festival of Sails

by Jessica Gabites 28 Jan 23:31 PST 25-27 January 2020
Team Trek-SegaFredo competed in the MacGlide Festival of Sails and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Sailing Challenge. They joined Royal Geelong Yacht Club skipper Paul Buchholz for a sail last night on Extasea. © Sarah Pettiford

Some of the world's best cyclists swapped their bikes for boats last night, joining Royal Geelong Yacht Club sailors for a 'Sailing Challenge' on Corio Bay.

More than 50 international elite cyclists, as well as support crew, competed in a mini regatta, on-board 12 RGYC boats, ahead of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

The Sailing Challenge was held just 24 hours after the 177th MacGlide Festival of Sails - the largest keelboat regatta in the southern hemisphere - finished in Geelong.

The line-up included cyclists from men's teams AG2R La Mondiale (France), CCC Team (Poland) and EF Education First. The women's teams were represented by cyclists from Rally Cycling (USA), Trek-SegaFredo and FDJ Nouvelle - Aquitaine Futuroscope (France).

The Sailing Challenge has been running for the past three years and is a popular experience with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race cyclists ahead of the UCI World Tour event.

Cyclists from Trek-SegaFredo joined Extasea skipper, Paul Buchholz, and crew for the Sailing Challenge. The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race boat was second over the line in Saturday's historic Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race.

American rider Ruth Winder, who won the Santos Tour Down Under in Adelaide on the weekend, enjoyed a brief respite and her second Geelong Sailing Challenge ahead of this weekend's racing.

For teammate Anna Plichta, the sail was a whole new experience. "It is my first time in Australia and my first time on a boat," Plichta said. The 27 year old has been cycling for the past six years and said seeing the impressive coastline at Torquay for the first time was a highlight of yesterday's 90km training ride.

Plichta said being early in the cycling season meant the team was able to enjoy unique experiences like sailing on Corio Bay. "We get to spend time together, get to know each other, it's good team building."

"I want to do as much as I can (in Australia) while I am here," she said before hopping on-board Extasea. Plichta said she was excited about the upcoming Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. "We have a good team, we started the season really well and we have a good atmosphere - they are the keys to success."

RGYC Commodore John Kint said this was the third year the club had hosted the Sailing Challenge and it continued to grow each year in popularity.

"The Sailing Challenge is a lot of fun for everyone. It provides visiting cyclists with the opportunity to get away from their busy training regime to enjoy a couple of hours out on the water, with some of the region's best sailors. We wish them all luck over the coming days."

"It is terrific to see so many RGYC sailors have happily fronted up after such a busy weekend with the MacGlide Festival of Sails, to showcase the club, sailing and our wonderful city to our visitors."

About 100,000 people are believed to have flocked to the Geelong Waterfront over the Australia Day long weekend for the historic MacGlide Festival of Sails.

The regatta is Australia's oldest annual sporting event and the country's biggest celebration of sailing.

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