Freiberg battles back to take elite men's Australian road race title

2011 omnium world champ relegates Harper and Meyer to second and third

Despite having been part of a day-long breakaway at the elite men's Australian road race national championships, former omnium world champion Michael Freiberg (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) battled back to surprise leading duo Chris Harper (Team BridgeLane) and Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) in the final kilometre to win the green-and-gold jersey in Buninyong, Victoria, on Sunday.

Both Freiberg and Harper has been part of a four-man move along with Meyer's Mitchelton teammates Luke Durbridge and defending champion Alex Edmondson early on in the 185.6km, 16-lap road race on an 11.6km circuit that included the short but sharp climb of Mount Buninyong.

When the quartet were joined by Meyer, Harper's BridgeLane teammate Jason Lea and Conor Murtagh (Oliver's Real Food Racing), Freiberg and Murtaghe – with no teammates – looked like the men most likely to miss out.

But with Durbridge and Edmondson eventually committing to teammate Meyer, and with Harper arguably the strongest rider of the day, committing himself to a number of attacks in the final couple of laps, Freiberg quietly went about trying to stay in contact with Meyer and Harper, who led the race over the climb for the final time.

On the run-in to the finish, Harper and Meyer's game of cat-and-mouse heading into the final couple of kilometres allowed Freiberg to battle back once more, and having made contact with just 800 metres to go, he hit them hard, sprinting through for victory as the others scrambled, unsuccessfully, to get onto his wheel.

"To be honest, not at all," Freiberg said at the finish when he was asked if he thought he might still be able to catch Meyer and Harper coming towards the end of the race.

"At first I was just trying to secure third, but then I thought, 'No way – this is not really happening,' when I caught them, and then managed to stay away. It's quite surreal.

"I was severely cramping on the climb on the last lap," he admitted, "but I came good and managed to chase over the top of climb.

"I thought, 'They're not going to let me come past them,' but I managed to hit them with speed, and I got a gap, and that was that."

How it unfolded

The four-man break of Freiberg, Harper, Durbridge and Edmondson escaped the clutches of the bunch early in the race, and were chased by a 30-strong group that spent most of the day between the leaders and the bunch.

There were plenty of early retirements as the distance and pace took its toll, including 2017 road race champion Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ), who crashed early on. The attritional nature of the race meant that there were only 25 finishers, with those calling it a day before the finish including Mat Hayman (Mitchelton-Scott), Lachlan Morton (EF Education First) and Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan, who had forgone his criterium title defence on Friday in favour of keeping his legs fresh for Sunday's road race.

With 10 laps to go, the leaders still had an almost two-minute lead over the chasing group, and they looked strong, working well together, and by seven laps to go, the main bunch were over five-and-a-half minutes behind the leaders, and looking as though they knew their day was over.

In between, the 30-rider group could make little inroads, and, at just over 50km to go, it began to splinter under pressure from Ben O'Connor, with the Dimension Data rider eager to push the pace.

It was at this point that former national time trial champion Meyer decided to leave the chasers behind, taking Lea and Murtagh with him for the ride, and they'd closed to 1:37 behind the leaders with 45km – four laps – to go, with the rest of the chasing group almost another minute behind.

Meyer worked well with his two companions, despite the fact that he had two Mitchelton teammates up ahead in Edmondson and Durbridge. The team must have fancied the odds of three riders versus four, and that's what happened with 37km to go when the two small groups combined to make it seven riders at the front of the race: Murtagh, Lea, Harper, Freiberg, Durbridge, Edmondson and Meyer.

Almost as soon as the juncture was made, Durbridge put in an attack, and Freiberg was unlucky enough to unship his chain. Although the eventual winner was forced to stop, he quickly managed to get it on and again, and received a push from his team mechanic who had pulled over to assist.

When Harper attacked a few kilometres later, inside three laps to go, it was Meyer who reacted, putting Murtagh and Lea in trouble.

Harper attacked again over the top of the climb, which was enough to this time drop Edmondson, leaving four riders at the head of the race, while the chasing group – by now well out of contention – was led by Team Sunweb's Jai Hindley, who would eventually finish in the top 10.

Harper again went on the attack on the climb of Mount Buninyong inside the final two laps, with Durbridge giving everything for Meyer, who managed to regain Harper's wheel at the top of the climb as Durbridge then fell away and Freiberg was left to take the climb at his own pace.

Harper and Meyer continued to take turns until 3km to go, with Freiberg seemingly out of contention, 20 seconds back. Harper dropped back to tighten his shoes and to let Meyer take the lead, who then asked Harper to come through, audibly telling him that "Freiberg will come back and beat us both" if they didn't work together.

And how right he proved to be, as unlikely as it really seemed: Harper pulled alongside Meyer, but neither would commit, with Freiberg rapidly approaching. He made contact with just 800 metres to go, gritted his teeth, and opened his sprint, hanging on to take a memorable victory from Harper – third last year – and a visibly upset Meyer.

Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Michael Freiberg (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast4:44:48 
2Chris Harper (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:00:01 
3Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
4Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:01:23 
5Dylan Sunderland (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:03:24 
6Scott Bowden (Aus) Team BridgeLane  
7Mark O'Brien (Aus)  
8Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
9Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:03:29 
10Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb0:04:16 
11Conor Murtagh (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing0:04:36 
12Drew Morey (Aus) Terengganu Cycling Team0:04:39 
13Jason Lea (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:05:27 
14Reece Tucknott (Aus)  
15Brendan Johnston (Aus)0:06:14 
16Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb0:06:55 
17Nathan Elliott (Aus) Inform TM Insight MAKE  
18Ben Hill (Aus) Ljubljana Gusto Santic0:07:16 
19Cyrus Monk (Aus) EvoPro Racing  
20Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Soudal0:07:19 
21James Whelan (Aus) EF Education First0:07:40 
22Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:09:26 
23Liam White (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development team0:09:30 
24Lionel Mawditt (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:11:45 
25Alistair Donohoe (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast0:12:42 
DNFAlexander Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFCallum Scotson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFMathew Hayman (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFRobert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott  
DNFChris Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb  
DNFMitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education First  
DNFLachlan Morton (Aus) EF Education First  
DNFCaleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal  
DNFAyden Toovey (Aus) Team BridgeLane  
DNFBenjamin Van Dam (Aus) Team BridgeLane  
DNFNeil Van Der Ploeg (Aus) Team BridgeLane  
DNFTristan Ward (Aus) Team BridgeLane  
DNFToby Orchard (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast  
DNFJonathon Noble (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast  
DNFFreddy Ovett (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast  
DNFAshley Mackay (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast  
DNFTimothy Cameron (Aus) St. George Continental Cycling Team  
DNFRowan Dever (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing  
DNFAngus Lyons (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing  
DNFRussell Gill (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing  
DNFKarl Michelin-Beard (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing  
DNFClinton Edwards (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing  
DNFJesse Featonby (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing  
DNFPatrick Burt (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development team  
DNFThomas Kaesler (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development team  
DNFOliver Martin (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development team  
DNFTheodore Yates (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development team  
DNFThomas Coates (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo Gita  
DNFMichael Bettany (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo Gita  
DNFDylan Newbery (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo Gita  
DNFTom Robinson (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo Gita  
DNFCameron Layton (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo Gita  
DNFDylan Lindsey (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing Team  
DNFJordan Villani (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing Team  
DNFNicholas Canterbury (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing Team  
DNFNicholas Leonars (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing Team  
DNFNick Locandro (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing Team  
DNFAlex Holden (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing Team  
DNFHarrison Bailey (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFCameron Ivory (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFTasman Nankervis (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFAden Reynolds (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFCameron Roberts (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFJulian Thomson (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFJoel Walsh (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFAaron Watts (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNFSamuel Hill (Aus) Team Nero Bianchi  
DNFJay Vine (Aus) Team Nero Bianchi  
DNFChris Miller (Aus) Team Nero Bianchi  
DNFJay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe  
DNFHeinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-Merida  
DNFRylan Dowdell (Aus) Butterfields - Appselec p/b Van Daam Racing  
DNFDavid Randall (Aus) Butterfields - Appselec p/b Van Daam Racing  
DNFWilliam Barker (Aus) Phoenix Cycling Collective  
DNFNathan Booth (Aus) Phoenix Cycling Collective  
DNFToby Stewart (Aus) Phoenix cycling collective  
DNFKevin Berwick (Aus) St. George Cycling Club Team  
DNFLuke Cridland (Aus) St. George Cycling Club Team  
DNFDaniel Bonello (Aus) St. George Cycling Club Team  
DNFMiles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJ  
DNFBen O'Connor (Aus) Team Dimension Data  
DNFNathan Haas (Aus) Team Katusha Alpecin  
DNFSam Crome (Aus) Team UKYO  
DNFBrenton Jones (Aus) Delko Marseille Provence  
DNFZakkari Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling Academy  
DNFRobbie Hucker (Aus) Team UKYO  
DNFAdam Lloyd (Aus) MTOSS Racing  
DNFNick Spratt (Aus) MTOSS Racing  
DNFSamuel Volkers (Aus) Memil Pro Cycling  
DNFGene Richards (Aus) Rauland Development Racing Team  
DNFAdam Nelson (Aus)  
DNFDamien Bovalino (Aus)  
DNFKyle Thompson (Aus)  
DNFAlex Kinnane (Aus)  
DNFMathew Ross (Aus)  
DNFJonathan Clarke (Aus)  
DNFTom Chapman (Aus)  
DNFLachlan Marshall (Aus)  
DNFTim Hoy (Aus)  
DNFTroy Herfoss (Aus)  
DNFBrendan Thornton (Aus)  
DNFJoshua Wilson (Aus)  
DNFPaul Redenbach (Aus)  
DNFDaniel Taylor (Aus)  
DNFStuart Smith (Aus)  
DNFChristopher Ball (Aus)  
DNFTimothy Clarsen (Aus)  
DNFBrendon Brauer (Aus)  
DNFPeter Milostic (Aus)  
DNFJacob Warman (Aus)  
DNFJoel Coxon (Aus)  
DNFCurtis Dowdell (Aus)  
DNFThomas Rischmueller (Aus)  
DNFAdrian Jackson (Aus)  
DNFGuy Kalma (Aus)  
DNFPeter Wakefield (Aus)  
DNFMax Hardy (Aus)  
DNFKelly Carter (Aus)  
DNFSteve Robb (Aus)  
DNFDarcy Ellerm-Norton (Aus)  
DNFAllan Iacuone (Aus)  
DNFNathan Jones (Aus)  
DNFSean Trainor (Aus)  
DNFJake Klajnblat (Aus)  
DNFJacob Langham (Aus)  
DNFTom Just (Aus)  
DNFTodd Satchell (Aus)  
DNFBrodie Talbot (Aus)  
DNFJustin Gassner (Aus)  
DNSRyan Cavanagh (Aus) St. George Continental Cycling Team  
DNSRyan Thomas (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development team  
DNSAden Reynolds (Aus) GPMStulz  
DNSJason Thomason (Aus) Butterfields - Appselec p/b Van Daam Racing  
DNSBen Spenceley (Aus) AMR Renault Racing  
DNSBen Harvey (Aus) St. George Cycling Club Team  
DNSMatthias Kiernan (Aus)  
DNSKierin Lewis (Aus)  
DNSSteven Richards (Aus)  

 

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