Brian Mcleod (Budget Forklifts) and Rhys Gillett found themselves in the the day’s escape a little earlier than they had anticipated in the under 23 road race at the Australian Road National Championships yesterday. They gapped the field with four other riders on the first rise out of the town of Buninyong, facing the prospect of 122 kilometres in front of the race if they were to win.
While the break had promise early on, by the third lap of the demanding circuit it had reduced to just three riders, Gillett, Mcleod and Suzuki-Trek rider Tim Cameron.
Cameron was offering help when he could but clearly wasn’t up to the strain of the "hilly" parcours. That left Gillett and Mcleod to think about other things – the only other two options for them, the supplementary classifications – the King of the Mountains and the Sprints.
"My plan before the race was definitely to get into the day’s EB, but I probably didn’t think I’d be in there that early," said Mcleod to Cyclingnews.
"But you can’t slow up," said Gillett on the prospect of waiting for more help from other riders.
"If you wait, more than likely you’ll get swallowed up and you won’t get another chance to get away. You just have to grin and bear it."
The two worked seamlessly together all day at the front, accumulating points in the KOM and sprint classifications before, with the bunch closing Gillett made the call that it was "race on" and there would be no more –co-operation.
"I didn’t even hear him," said Mcleod. "He just zipped away."
"But then he smashed me on the climb, so it all worked out," smiled Gillett.
Once the two were caught, it was pretty much race over, they’d given it their all but they still had to get to the finish to be eligible for the jersey.
Gillett was actually seen asking the commissaries "do I have to continue?" with about two laps to go. In the end he did, and settled for the sprint classification jersey.
"I’m happy I came here with no expectations, and I’ve picked up the jersey. I’m really happy."
Mcleod didn’t go home empty handed as the winner of the KOM, but admitted he would’ve liked to be fighting for the national championship.
"I came here to win the championship, but I left it all out on the road so I can’t complain. I tried to hang on when I caught but I just had nothing left."
See the full video interview below.