Previously unheralded Sam Jenner rode through final lap cramp in both legs to enjoy a solo victory in the U23 Australian national road race 47 seconds ahead of Alex Porter (SASI) and last year's runner-up Lucas Hamilton (Jayco/VIS). The 19-year-old from Armidale in the north of New South Wales launched his race moving move with four of the 13 laps left in the 132.6km race after teammate Dan Fitter had been reeled in following his mid-race solo raid.
Jenner made his way into an early breakaway, from which he made the winning move, emerging from the race as another exciting young Australian prospect for the future and adding his name to a list of former winners that includes the likes of Simon Gerrans, Rohan Dennis, and Caleb Ewan.
Jenner collapsed with cramp in both legs after his victory salute through the finish line, calling to a close the 3:27:52 minute in hot conditions that whittled down the 120 strong peloton to just 28 finishers by day's end.
"I made the move just before four laps to go on the back downhill on Fisken road. It wasn’t really the plan but there was a lull in the bunch and I thought why not go. I backed myself and that is all I could do really," Jenner said of his late move. "It was a bit touch and go there as I started to cramp up the last hill there but I just pushed through it.
"The whole last lap I was cramping up so I had to stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, all the way up the climb. As soon as I finished, I couldn’t stand. Every time I went to stand up, I would cramp and fall back down."
The aggressive nature of the race suited Jenner's characteristics and having chosen the right move to go with in the day, he timed his effort and squeezed out every last watt to ensure he could enjoy the final few hundred meters with his proud partents watching on.
Porter, 20, made the move at the same time as Jenner but the fast finisher wasn't thinking of making a solo move with his focus on holding on and focusing on the sprint for silver. With victory in the criterium and fourth in the criterium, the track rider proved himself to be the most consistent rider of the championships in the U23 field and wasn't shying away from his success during a post-race interview.
"I was hoping I would be able to pull out some good results but I wasn’t expected anything like just happened so I am over the moon really. I knew it was going to be pretty tough going up the hill on the last lap so going into it I was trying to save my legs as much as I could," said Porter who is aiming to come back and claim gold in 2018. "I was thinking if I could get over the hill with these boys I would be in a good position to get the bunch kick."
Bronze went to another medalist in the criterium with Hamilton adding a bronze to his silver from 12-months prior. The 20-year-old started as one of the favourties for the race and while dissapointed to miss the win, Hamilton explained the performance is reassure he is on track for bigger goals across the summer at Tour Down Under and the Herald Sun Tour.
"I hadn’t raced at this level since October so it always good to come and se that you are in good form and climbing well. Taking that out of it, I am pretty happy with it," said Hamilton. "This was the start of many goals for the summer. It is a national championships so you always want to rock up and be in your best form but those tours are just as big goals and I am really looking to them."
Having spent the 2016 season racing with Jenner in the Australian WorldTour Academy team, Hamilton added that if it wasn't him raising his arms across the line, he was barracking for Jenner.
"Sam is a country bloke so he is a really nice guy and I think out of everyone in that bunch today he deserved it the most. Having spent the year with him, he deserved it the most as he works bloody hard," he said.
How it unfolded
120 riders rolled out of Buninyong at 1pm sharp with the temperature hitting 33 degrees celsius. A four-man breakaway of Cyrus Monk (Drapac-Pat's Veg), Nick White (Oliver's Racing), Ben Andrews (Van D'am Racing), and Joshua Harrison (SASI) quickly established a lead on lap 1 of 13. Dan Fitter (NSWIS) jumped across to make it a five-man leading group as the peloton started to fracture and break up.
By lap 4, the five-man leading group was one of four on the road ahead of the chasing peloton at 1:26 minutes. In the middle of it all was a five-man chase group with 10 riders trying to bridge across. They chasing groups came together with 17-riders represented from a mix of teams while three riders, including Theo Yates (Drapac-Pat's Veg), attempted to join the second group of the road with the peloton just over 2:30 minutes down on the leaders.
Later on the same lap, the five-man leading group held a 25 second advantage over the chasers as the heat and fast early-pace was being felt by riders in the peloton who started losing contact on the climb up to Mt Buninyong. As the temperatures continued to heat up, so did the racing with riders getting shelled out the back and groups with the head of the race coming together.
A 22-rider group led the race by 1:37 minutes over a reduced peloton at the half-way point of the race before Fitter decided on a long range attack. The NSWIS fast man pulled out over a minute over the chasers with Nicholas White and Sam Hill deciding to give chase with six laps left in the race. With Fitter emulating Jack Bobridge's 2016 90km long range raid for the title, White and Hill were closing the gap and behind them the two chase groups were getting ever closer to merging and effectively forming the peloton with 50 riders pulling the pin by end of lap 8.
Lucas Hamilton took it upon himself to chase down Fitter, flying up the Buninyong climb at the head of the second group on the road. The solo leader was absorbed by the first group with four laps left in the race, while the Jayco/VIS man's group continued to cut the deficit like a fiscally responsible treasurer.
Fitter's teammate Sam Jenner decided he would be next to attack off the front, leading the chase group of Peter Livingstone, Alex Porter, Monk, Alexander Evans, Jason Lea and Kelland O'Brien by 23 seconds as he passed under the start/finish gantry with three laps to race. The peloton, containing Hamilton, Jai HIndley, Callum Scotson and Michael Storer, was holding at just over one minute with just 47 riders left from the 120 starters.
Jenner led through the gantry with two laps to before, heading up the highway to the climb with the chase group on his tail at one minute and a further 30 second gap over the the Hamilton group. The 19-year-old held on for the last time through with the chase becoming a futile endeavour as a tailwind blew Jenner up the climb.
The chasers reduced the lead to Jenner on the final lap with nine-riders sprinting for two podium position with confirmation he would be holding onto gold in the final kilometres of the race. Fitter rolled over almost ten minute on Jenner as the podium celebrations were beginning, and he was called to the stage as the sprint classification winner. Local Ballarat rider Nick White (Oliver's Racing) won the KOM classification.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Samuel Jenner (Aus) NSWIS||3:27:52|
|2||Alexander Porter (Aus) SASI||0:00:47|
|3||Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Jayco/VIS|
|4||Alistair Donohoe (Aus) Attaque Team Gusto|
|5||Oliver Martin (Aus)|
|6||Scott Bowden (Aus) IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness|
|7||Michael Storer (Aus) WAIS|
|8||Cyrus Monk (Aus) Drapac-Pat's Veg|
|9||Peter Livingstone (Aus) Mobius Future Racing|
|10||Angus Lyons (Aus) Jayco/VIS|