Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) parlayed an opportunistic bridge across to an early breakaway into a race-winning move on what has been dubbed "Super Sunday" at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships. The 28-year-old jumped across to teammate Sarah Roy and Louisa Lobigs (Holden) on the eighth of ten laps on the Buninyong circuit en route to her second elite road title.
"The first [title] was probably a little more unexpected," said Spratt. "This one, I came in really knowing my form was really good. I think certainly through Bay Crits, I could feel that – although I certainly kept a low profile heading into the race, which was fine for me."
"I had my whole family here today," Spratt added. "The last time my whole family was here was in 2012 [when I won my first title]. I can definitely say that they're my good luck charms."
The bridge across to the early breakaway was not a solo move. Spratt had Ruth Corset (Total Rush) and Kimberley Wells (Colavita Bianchi) along for the ride. It took the trio nearly a lap to make contact with Roy and Lobigs. Heading up Mount Buninyong for the second-to-last time the five leaders has a minute on the peloton.
"We had a numerical advantage, and the thing was, I think we were really able to use that this year," said Spratt. "Having Sarah Roy out in that early break was great for us."
"Getting across to Sarah was great," Spratt added. "She was cramping. She was absolutely done, but she said: ‘What can I do? What do I do?" She gave me every last bit of energy she had. I knew it was up to me to finish it off."
The final 10 kilometres of the 102-kilometre day were as action-packed as promised with Spratt and Corset proving strongest in the break. An attack from Shara Gillow on the final ascent of Mount Buninyong caused chaos in the bunch as Spratt and Corset dug deep to stay out front. While Spratt backed herself, she also knew that she had teammates in her wake that could pick up where she left off should she and Corset get caught.
"I spoke to Sarah and told her I was confident I could finish it off for the team, and I'm sure she communicated that once they caught her," said Spratt. "I knew I had GreenEdge riders behind me if it did come back together, so I could play that card a little bit."
How it unfolded
The two-rider breakaway with Roy and Lobigs was the first significant move of the day. The duo set off on lap four and within two laps they had pocketed a nearly three-minute advantage over a relaxed peloton.
The gap to the two leaders began to close on lap eight, with 30 kilometres still to race. Lauren Kitchen (Hitec Products), Miranda Griffiths (Holden) and newly crowned Australian national time trial champion Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS) attempted to bridge across to Roy and Lobigs. The main bunch chased, and Spratt and Corset countered the catch, forcing clear of a tiring peloton.
Roy and Lobigs held onto a slim lead as they crossed the finish line to head out for the second-to-last lap. Spratt and Corset had been joined by Wells. The peloton chased around 45-seconds behind the trio.
The two leading groups merged before the ninth ascent of Mount Buninyong. Lobigs lost contact on the climb. The remaining four held a 30-second advantage over the peloton.
Fireworks flew on the final lap. Gillow was the first to make her move. The reaction from the peloton was swift.
Up ahead, Spratt and Corset had dropped Roy and Wells. A shattered peloton gave chase, catching Wells and Roy. The leading duo has a 55-second advantage over the top of the climb.
The downhill run into the finish was a series of dramatic attacks – first from Carlee Taylor (Liv Plantur) and Giffiths. Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS) also put in a dig.
"She was just trying to keep the momentum going in that group," said Neylan. "There was good communication throughout the entire race, and we were completely backing Spratty the whole way."
Neylan, Garfoot and Kitchen formed a formidable chase group, but with Spratt up the road, Kitchen was forced to do all the work.
"I couldn't bring Lauren across," explained Neylan. "We couldn't afford to bridge across to Spratty because Lauren was more a dangerous sprinter in that situation."
Spratt opened her sprint early and handily bested Corset to the line – and to the national title.
"I was trying to be patient, trying to be patient, trying to be patient – and I think I still went from 300 to go," said Spratt. "It's one of those finishing straights where you can see the finish from so far out. You know it's an Australian Championships, and yeah, I think I got a little bit excited."
"I knew for me, I had to make it a bit of a longer sprint," Spratt added. "Ruth is quite punchy, so for me, that was the aim – to make it a bit more of a drag race. I could just keep getting faster and faster. I think getting the jump on her allowed me to win the sprint."
Neylan gave Orica-AIS a second rider on the podium, winning the three-up sprint for third.
"To be on the podium and to come through with a third place – it was very, very special to stand on the national championships podium," said Neylan. "I'm extremely thrilled with my ride. I backed Spratty all the way. I didn't touch the front in the final kilometres until 300 metres to go, and I just went for it."
"I think someone up above is really looking out for me and would be really happy with today, so it's really emotional. This one's for Dad," said Neylan, whose father passed away late last year. "It's been a big adjustment process getting used to life without him, but today I felt like he was right there. It was pretty special."
Spratt also dedicated her result to a life lost. Cycling Australia's Senior Women's road coach and Orica-AIS sport director Martin Barras lost his father unexpectedly last month.
"We got the news that Marv that his father passed away really unexpectedly, so he couldn't be here for these first few races," said Spratt. "The way our team is, we're like a family. He's been messaging us throughout the Bay Crits, throughout Nationals. He's always keeping an eye on us, always seeing how it's going."
"I know he would be really proud about how the team rode, how the team is racing at the moment," said Spratt "This one is for Marv."
The women's U23 race is run within the elite women's race – but for the first time this year, the winner earns a green and gold jersey. Jenelle Crooks (Specialized) was the only U23 rider to crack the top ten. She edged out newly crowned U23 national criterium champion Jessica Mundy (High5 Dream Team) and Ellen Skerrit (Alé Cipollini)
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Amanda Spratt (Nsw)||2:56:45|
|2||Ruth Corset (Qld)|
|3||Rachel Neylan (Nsw)||0:00:02|
|4||Katrin Garfoot (Qld)|
|5||Lauren Kitchen (Nsw)|
|6||Chloe Hosking (Act)||0:00:35|
|7||Lizzie Williams (Vic)|
|8||Tiffany Cromwell (Sa)|
|9||Peta Mullens (Vic)|
|10||Jenelle Crooks (Qld)|
|11||Jessica Mundy (Sa)|
|12||Ellen Skerritt (Qld)|
|13||Shara Gillow (Qld)|
|14||Samantha De Riter (Vic)|
|15||Shannon Malseed (Vic)|
|16||Lisen Hockings (Vic)|
|17||Jessica Pratt (Qld)|
|18||Gracie Elvin (Act)|
|19||Carlee Taylor (Sa)|
|20||Kirsten Howard (Nsw)|
|21||Sarah Roy (Nsw)|
|22||Ainslie Bakker (Qld)|
|23||Michaela Parsons (Vic)|
|24||Tessa Fabry (Vic)|
|25||Miranda Griffiths (Vic)|
|26||Lucy Kennedy (Qld)||0:00:39|
|27||Jessica Huston (Wa)||0:01:56|
|28||Joanne Hogan (Nsw)|
|29||Brodie Chapman (Qld)|
|30||Victoria Veitch (Sa)|
|31||Justine Barrow (Vic)|
|32||Rebecca Mackey (Wa)|
|33||Naomi Williams (Vic)|
|34||Chloe McConville (Vic)|
|35||Louisa Lobigs (Nsw)|
|36||Kimberley Wells (Act)|
|37||Aimee Ingram (Qld)||0:02:27|
|38||Lisa Antill (Nsw)||0:02:35|
|39||Lauretta Hanson (Vic)||0:03:07|
|40||Holly Harris (Nsw)|
|41||Kate Perry (Vic)|
|42||Lucy Barker (Sa)||0:04:54|
|43||Cassia Higgs (Wa)|
|44||Erin Kinnealy (Wa)|
|45||Tayla Evans (Vic)|
|46||Kristy Glover (Vic)|
|47||Alexis Barnes (Nsw)||0:08:00|
|48||Rachel Ward (Vic)|
|49||Madeline Wright (Vic)|
|50||Eliza Kwan (Act)||0:09:23|
|51||Emily Cunningham (Nsw)||0:10:30|
|52||Sophie Mackay (Nsw)|
|53||Georgina Beech (Vic)||0:10:39|
|54||Carley McKay (Vic)||0:12:04|
|55||Verita Stewart (Vic)||0:12:48|
|56||Gina Ricardo (Nsw)|
|DNF||Kendelle Hodges (Vic)|
|DNF||Bridie O'Donnell (Vic)|
|DNF||Stephanie Frawley (Sa)|
|DNF||Liz Leyden (Wa)|
|DNF||Elizabeth Hall (Vic)|
|DNF||Kathryn Woolston (Tas)|
|DNF||Justyna Lubkowski (Vic)|
|DNF||Fiona Macmillan (Vic)|
|DNF||Purdie Long (Vic)|
|DNF||Emma Viotto (Act)|
|DNF||Amy Bradley (Vic)|
|DNF||Sarah Duffield (Wa)|
|DNF||Rebecca Stephens (Vic)|
|DNF||Jessica Lane (Vic)|
|DNF||Anna Booth (Vic)|
|DNF||Karla McKinnon (Vic)|
|DNF||Jasmine McMillan (Qld)|
|DNF||Minda Murray (Vic)|
|DNF||Chloe McIntosh (Vic)|
|DNF||Prudence Rothwell (Vic)|
|DNF||Madeleine Steele (Sa)|
|DNF||Grace Brown (Vic)|
|DNF||Anna Hull (Nsw)|
|DNF||Emily Roper (Qld)|
|DNF||Josie Talbot (Nsw)|
|DNF||Kirsty Deacon (Vic)|
|DNF||Angela Smith (Nsw)|
|DNF||Jade Colligan (Nsw)|
|DNF||Julia Kalotas (Wa)|
|DNS||Loren Rowney (Qld)|
|DNS||Jessica Allen (Wa)|
|DNS||Elizabeth Doueal (Vic)|
|DNS||Esther Borg (Vic)|