Having gone clear with Rachel Neylan on the second last of 10 laps, Peta Mullens out sprinted her breakaway companion to claim her first national road title after 102km of racing in Buninyong in a time of 2:55:29. Mullens, who raced with Wiggle-Honda in 2014, had planned for the national championships to be her only road race of the year as she switches her focus to racing mountain bikes with her eye on Rio.
"I can’t believe it," Mullens told reporters after her win. "I said to myself that I had to be reserved today ahead and wait for the final climb. I felt really bad at the start of the race but felt better as the day went on. I just saw an opportunity with Rach on that second last climb and my coach Mark Fenner is going to kill me for this as he told me to be patient but that’s not how I race bikes. It was so good and we rode away with it. I knew we had 30 seconds and I was confident that I'd have her in a kick."
"I wasn’t that confident on the start line as I don’t actually back myself in a sprint and I know the power that Gracie Elvin has put out at the end of a three hours in the last couple of years that I just didn’t want to come up against her in the last couple of hundred meters. I just wanted to ride an aggressive race and for the first couple it was then the pace died down and I wasn’t happy about that. I didn’t want to take anyone to the finish line.
"Like I said, I saw an opportunity and I can’t really believe it. I am a mountain biker but of all the national titles, I'd prefer to win this win."
Mullens had shown her good form at last week's Bay Crits where she soloed to victory in Portarlington and replicated her winnings ways on the 10.2km circuit.
For Neylan, who made the race with her attack, second place was a return to the podium after two season plagued by injury.
"I really needed a big ride today," Neylan told reporters. "Its been a pretty challenging 18 months, two years since my world championships silver medal [in 2012] and I proved my comeback at last year's Worlds and this is my first race since. I've had a really consistent rebuild block and I am working with Brad McGee and spending a lot of time in the Southern Highlands, which is closer to friends and family in Sydney.
"I am just ultimately really happy with where i am at and I think that shows. I had to let my legs do the talking before today and I didn't try to do too many races and I am really looking forward to the road to Rio. That's all its about now for me."
Gillow's bronze medal saw the Queenslander finish the championships with two medals for her new Rabo-Liv team.
"I did try to go for it a few times but burnt up a little bit of energy. But I’m happy that I tried, so to get the bronze medal is great,” said Gillow. "To bring two medals back [to Europe] is really good. I’m really excited, especially to get the national champs TT jersey for my new team, that’s pretty cool."
How it unfolded
A four rider group containing Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS), Lauren Rowney (Velocio-SRAM), Allison Rice and Kendelle Hodges was the first break of the race having got away in the early laps. Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) then went on a solo attack once the catch was made with seven laps to go and steadily built her lead from 30 seconds to a maximum of 1:25 minutes over the chasing bunch with 60km left to race.
On the climb up the hill for a sixth time, Spratt was caught by the bunch with Shara Gillow (Rabo-Liv) counterattacking and forcing five riders to react.
While the front group of six riders worked to grow its advantage over the ever diminishing peloton, it came back together with the bunch gruppo compacto as it crossed the line with the three laps to go for a time of 18:41. Sitting comfortably in the bunch was Cromwell with Elvin sitting in behind while Lauren Kitchen was keeping an eye on both riders.
On the third last climb, Gillow attacked once again while Spratt remained aggressive while attacks came thick and fast with nothing sticking.
When the bunch came down for two laps to go, Bridie O’Donnell led Spratt over the line with the peloton 23 seconds in arrears and Tessa Fabry in the middle. Gillow led over the queen of the mountains for the penultimate time but it was Neylan and Mullens who made the winning move as Neylan slipped off the front with only Mullens responding. Elvin and Tiff Cromwell were also trying to get away as the two leaders.
The duo held a 27 second advantage over the chasers when the bell was rung and the two riders headed up Midland highway for one final time with Gillow chasing on her own. With Mullens’ speed giving her the advantage in a sprint finish, Neylan attacked and managed to go clear with 1.5km to race only for Mullens to get back on Neylan’s wheel and from there the national mountain bike eliminator champion added a road title to her palmarès.
Gillow crossed the line 22 seconds down on Mullens to add a bronze medal to her gold from the time trial while Fabry came in 1:02 minutes in arrears. Williams won the bunch sprint for fifth in a group containing Cromwell while defending champion Elvin ended her defence in 22nd place.
In the women's U23 race, Shannon Malseed (Holden Women’s Cycling) added the green and gold jersey to criterium gold won on Wednesday night. Malseed finished in the first bunch behind Mullens while Alexandria Nicholls (ACT) took silver with Ellen Skerritt (QLD) claiming bronze.
"It’s definitely a good start to a season winning the under 23 title for the criterium and now the road race. I didn’t expect it, it’s still sinking in," said Malseed.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Peta Mullens (VIC)||2:55:29|
|2||Rachel Neylan (SA)|
|3||Shara Gillow (QLD)||0:00:22|
|4||Tessa Fabry (VIC)||0:01:02|
|5||Kendelle Hodges (VIC)||0:01:10|
|6||Lizzie Williams (VIC)|
|7||Samantha De Riter (VIC)|
|8||Ruth Corset (QLD)|
|9||Lauren Kitchen (NSW)|
|10||Tiffany Cromwell (SA)|
|11||Shannon Malseed (VIC)|
|12||Alexandria Nicholls (ACT)|
|13||Jennifer Fay (ACT)|
|14||Carlee Taylor (SA)|
|15||Rebecca Henderson (ACT)|
|16||Joanne Hogan (VIC)|
|17||Lisa Barry (VIC)|
|18||Loren Rowney (QLD)|
|19||Ellen Skerritt (QLD)|
|20||Jenelle Crooks (QLD)|
|21||Miranda Griffiths (VIC)||0:01:16|
|22||Gracie Elvin (ACT)|
|23||Chloe Hosking (ACT)||0:01:55|
|24||Nicole Moerig (QLD)|
|25||Tayla Evans (VIC)|
|26||Allison Rice (ACT)|
|27||Taryn Heather (SA)||0:02:35|
|28||Kathryn Woolston (TAS)|
|29||Amanda Spratt (NSW)|
|30||Bridie O'Donnell (VIC)||0:04:18|
|31||Kimberley Wells (ACT)||0:04:29|
|32||Kristy Glover (VIC)|
|33||Jessica Mundy (SA)|
|34||Victoria Veitch (SA)|
|35||Rebecca Locke (VIC)|
|36||Rebecca Mackey (WA)|
|37||Lucy Kennedy (QLD)||0:04:32|
|38||Tanya Freschi (SA)|
|39||Rachel Ward (VIC)|
|40||Verita Stewart (VIC)|
|41||Lynne Clarke (NSW)|
|42||Kate Perry (VIC)||0:09:02|
|43||Lauretta Hanson (VIC)||0:11:16|
|44||Laurelea Moss (QLD)||0:12:42|
|45||Sophie Mackay (NSW)||0:13:19|
|DNF||Felicity Wardlaw (VIC)|
|DNF||Lisa Jacobs (VIC)|
|DNF||Brittany Lindores (QLD)|
|DNF||Nikolina Orlic (QLD)|
|DNF||Nicole Whitburn (VIC)|
|DNF||Naomi Williams (VIC)|
|DNF||Lucy Barker (SA)|
|DNF||Justine Barrow (VIC)|
|DNF||Esther Borg (VIC)|
|DNF||Laura Darlington (ACT)|
|DNF||Elizabeth Doueal (VIC)|
|DNF||Elizabeth Hall (VIC)|
|DNF||Erin Kinnealy (WA)|
|DNF||Jessica Lane (VIC)|
|DNF||Stephanie Lord (NSW)|
|DNF||Fiona Macmillan (VIC)|
|DNF||Carley Mckay (VIC)|
|DNF||Karla McKinnon (VIC)|
|DNF||Jasmine McMillan (QLD)|
|DNF||Josephine Meldgaard (NSW)|
|DNF||Kim Pedersen (QLD)|
|DNF||Rebecca Stephens (VIC)|
|DNF||Emma Viotto (ACT)|
|DNF||Jade Colligan (NSW)|
|DNF||Emily Cust (VIC)|
|DNF||Julia Kalotas (WA)|
|DNF||Gina Ricardo (NSW)|
|DNF||Angela Smith (NSW)|
|DNS||Sarah Roy (NSW)|
|DNS||Katrin Garfoot (QLD)|
|DNS||Jessie Maclean (ACT)|
|DNS||Kelly Bartlett (VIC)|
|DNS||Marissa Madden (NSW)|
|DNS||Minda Murray (VIC)|
|DNS||Maddison Vit (QLD)|