Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) as one of Australia's best cyclists over the last decade has been rewarded for his exploits, winning Sunday's Australian Road National Championship from Matthew Lloyd (Lampre-ISD) and Richie Porte (Sky).
"This is one of my proudest moments in cycling," Gerrans said having completed the 163.2 kilometre race in a time of 4:07:38.
For Gerrans, who won the national under 23 title in 2002 and was the bronze medallist in the 2011 edition of the championships, today's result was just reward given the 31-year-old also has the honour of being the only Australian to have won a stage in all of the Grand Tours.
"This is well and truly up there," the Victorian explained when asked where the win sat in comparison to some of his grand achievements. "It's such a proud moment to be Australian Champion and I'm just going to wear this jersey with pride for the next 12 months."
Lloyd, silver medallist on the day and a former winner of the title, was most appreciative of the result.
"I was mega-stoked for Simon and Richie because it's a race that's very special and that jersey, once you've got it you can never take it away," he explained. "It's beautiful to see."
The win marked the first for his new team with the road race an important goal for the UCI WorldTour neophytes as they embark on the 2012 season – the pressure always on GreenEdge to ensure one of their key men would wear the green and gold bands at the biggest races in Europe.
With 16 men lining up for the team at Buninyong, GreenEdge definitely had an advantage in numbers where their opponents did not but Gerrans admitted that with their head start came extra pressure "to try and win the race and really utilise the guys that we had."
Bronze medallist Porte paid compliments to GreenEdge, but also spoke of the hard work by new teammates at Sky, Mathew Hayman, Michael Rogers and Chris Sutton who were all still in the mix on the final lap.
"We had quality, not quantity," Porte explained. "Mathew Hayman just kept coming back and Chris Sutton was probably the fastest guy at the finish and then Mick as well. It's such a good team but hats off to GreenEdge. They used their numbers well and it's Simon who deserves it the most... In all respects."
A closed race to foreign riders in 2012, Gerrans said that the decision taken by race organiser John Craven had been vindicated by the standard of racing on show, but did not deny that it helped the chances of GreenEdge.
"It worked in our favour at GreenEdge because we've got so many Aussies," he admitted. "If foreigners were allowed to race it might have boosted the teams like Sky and Rabobank.
"I think we've got a worthy enough field to have a world class national championships with just Australians so there's no need for foreigners in the race anymore."
In arguably the best racing ever witnessed at the national championships, the race did not have a clear winner until the last of the gruelling 16 laps of the 10.1 kilometre Buninyong course, which had seen the field decimated from the opening circuit where GreenEdge immediately went on the attack through defending champion Jack Bobridge and Luke Durbridge.
For some time, it appeared as though Gerrans' teammate Cameron Meyer would be the man for the win with the 23-year-old producing a mammoth solo effort with around 100 kilometres of racing already completed, staying away until appearing to bonk inside the final three laps. Gerrans said that the race became "an even playing field" at that point.
"We had the same amount of guys in the front as a lot of other teams and it was pretty much every team for themselves and we lost our advantage in numbers," he explained. "It was a lot of hard work to win the race."
At the end of 15 laps, 23 riders were still in contention for the title and Gerrans, who had gone into the race as the GreenEdge's protected man, was the first man to launch an attack on the start of the climb with Lloyd following his wheel. Porte decided that he too should make a run for the finish soon after, and time trialled across the gap to eventually reach the lead pair with a kilometre to go.
Seeing the Sky kit in the distance, Gerrans actually thought it was Porte's teammate who was also in the chase group, Chris Sutton coming after he and Lloyd.
"I was doing a lot of looking over my shoulder and I thought that CJ was doing a heck of a strong ride but it turns out it was a time trialist in Richie," said Gerrans.
Both Lloyd and Porte joked post-race about the ‘sprint' for the minor placings, while Gerrans was always confident in victory given his opponents.
"You will never see me sprint faster in my life," laughed Lloyd.
How it unfolded
An all-Australian field rolled out for the first time in Buninyong for the elite men’s road race, and with the presence of GreenEdge, the countries’ first top tier team, it was always going to be an historic day.
The riders seemed to realise this as well, because almost seconds after start gun went, ably done by a colonial musketman, a group of three riders jumped off the front of the bunch.
They were Luke Durbridge, Jack Bobridge (both GreenEdge) and Nathan Haas (Garmin-Cervelo).
Their gap hovered over the 30-second mark, and for nearly two laps they appeared to be starting something that wouldn’t come back. Two junior would time trial champions and one of the hottest prospects in Australian cycling at the moment in Haas.
But with the chase behind in earnest, the peloton seemed unhappy with the trio ahead, and by the start of lap 3 things were once more together.
The next move was instigated by none other than Stuart O’Grady. The 2003 national champion pulled away mid way through the third lap with his former Leopard teammate Will Clarke (Champion System).
The two worked well together before being joined by Pat Shaw (Genesys) to form another strong group of three. Shaw, a native of Ballarat, was super motivated to make a mark and he did not disappoint.
70 kilometres in and the peloton had well and truly shattered behind. The frenetic pace meant that three chase groups of around 20 riders followed the lead trio who still held a small margin at the front.
Shortly after the leaders of Shaw, O’Grady, and Clarke were joined by several other riders including Cameron Meyer, Durbridge, Bernard Sulzberger, Wes Sulzberger, Richie Porte, Jai Crawford, Heinrich Haussler, Simon Gerrans and many more.
Again GreenEdge was well represented, and seemed content to tap out the tempo at the front. Leigh Howard was prevalent, as was Durbridge with both being used as the team quite obviously as sacrificial lambs for the more favoured riders on the team.
One of the pre-race favourites Matt Goss wasn’t in the selection ahead, and after too-and-froing in the chase decided to call it quits.
As the laps ticked down there were attacks after attacks. The break seemed reluctant to form, but finally one did including Clarke and Shaw again, Matt Wilson, Wes Sulzberger, Bernard Sulzberger, Durbridge, Cameron Meyer, and Mark Renshaw – who was climbing out of his skin.
This move looked to be the winning one. Durbridge, W. Sulzberger and Wilson went to the front and hammered the group, while Meyer sat on looking very ominous. Their advantage never ballooned out however.
Sensing that the time was right to try something different, Cameron Meyer and Matt Wilson jumped away on the grippier part of the climb, and quickly built an advantage of a minute to the chase.
Behind things were getting interesting as well with a larger chase – made from the remainder of the peloton forming more than 30 riders, bearing down on the leaders.
Wilson disappeared from the front when Meyer’s pace was too much, leaving the time trial champion to do just that.
Meyer’s gap went to over two minutes. But he was facing a long road to the finish if he was to win. He looked smooth though, and realizing the danger Haussler decided to try and cross the gap alone.
Getting a free tow from Haussler was Durbridge who seemed to be everywhere, and on a super day.
Disaster struck for Meyer just when he seemed like he was going to extend his advantage to something insurmountable. Put it down to youthful exuberance, but he failed to eat and bonked big time with around 35 kilometres to go.
Painfully for Haussler, the same lap he caught Meyer, the peloton caught him, and things were once again all together.
O’Grady, who was clearly on a flyer of a day, went almost as soon as the catch happened. This time it was Mathew Hayman who linked up with him. The duo worked well together, but again the move was brought back.
It was into the final 18 kilometres now, and for the remaining climbers that signaled the time to launch an all-out assault.
Matthew Lloyd appeared for the first time in the race when he launced a big move, and he was quickly followed by Simon Gerrans, and Richie Porte.
Chris Sutton was surprising plenty of people as he bridged, and Bernard Sulzberger joined them to make a group of five.
As the final lap loomed, things came back together once more, and just as they did Lloyd, Gerrans and Porte went again. This time it was the big one and with the small peloton cramping like there was tomorrow, the three disappeared.
On the false flat Lloyd went again with Gerrans leaving Porte just behind. The Sky rider was forced to go into full time trial mode to get back in contact, which he did and with two to go they were a group of three guaranteed a medal, but still fighting for the one that mattered.
It came down to a sprint, and unsurprisingly; it was Gerrans who triumphed over his compatriots, by far the fastest finisher of the three. It was his first national title, and a great end to the weekend for his new team GreenEdge, who picked up the women’s title as well yesterday.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Simon Gerrans (Vic)||4:07:38|
|2||Matthew Lloyd (Vic)||0:00:02|
|3||Richie Porte (Tas)|
|4||Adam Hansen (QLD)||0:01:05|
|5||William Clarke (Tas)||0:01:09|
|6||Steele Von Hoff (Vic)||0:01:11|
|7||Christopher Sutton (NSW)|
|8||Baden Cooke (Vic)|
|9||Anthony Giacoppo (WA)|
|10||Bernard Sulzberger (Tas)|
|11||Daniel McConnell (Vic)|
|12||Mark O'brien (Vic)|
|13||Ben Dyball (NSW)||0:01:17|
|14||Zakkari Dempster (Vic)||0:01:37|
|15||Luke Roberts (SA)|
|16||Jay Bourke (Vic)||0:01:38|
|17||Michael Rogers (Act)|
|18||Mathew Hayman (NSW)||0:03:24|
|19||Jai Crawford (Tas)||0:06:28|
|20||Neil Van Der Ploeg (Vic)||0:11:32|
|21||Jason Spencer (Vic)|
|DNF||Jack Bobridge (SA)|
|DNF||Cameron Meyer (WA)|
|DNF||Jonathan Cantwell (QLD)|
|DNF||Matthew Goss (Tas)|
|DNF||Robbie McEwen (QLD)|
|DNF||Stuart O'Grady (O/S)|
|DNF||Matt Wilson (Vic)|
|DNF||Travis Meyer (WA)|
|DNF||Allan Davis (QLD)|
|DNF||Heinrich Haussler (NSW)|
|DNF||Michael Matthews (Act)|
|DNF||Mark Renshaw (NSW)|
|DNF||Nathan Haas (Act)|
|DNF||Simon Clarke (Vic)|
|DNF||Luke Durbridge (WA)|
|DNF||Leigh Howard (Vic)|
|DNF||Chris Jongewaard (SA)|
|DNF||Joel Pearson (Vic)|
|DNF||Patrick Shaw (Vic)|
|DNF||Wesley Sulzberger (O/S)|
|DNF||Johnnie Walker (Vic)|
|DNF||Chris Jory (NSW)|
|DNF||Josh Collingwood (Vic)|
|DNF||Dean Windsor (NSW)|
|DNF||Michael Hepburn (QLD)|
|DNF||Mitchell Docker (Vic)|
|DNF||Darren Rolfe (QLD)|
|DNF||Damien Turner (Vic)|
|DNF||Nicholas SAnderson (Vic)|
|DNF||Andrew Roe (SA)|
|DNF||Richard Lang (NSW)|
|DNF||Phillip Grenfell (NSW)|
|DNF||Jonathan Lovelock (Vic)|
|DNF||Brodie Talbot (NSW)|
|DNF||Benjamin Johnson (Vic)|
|DNF||SAmuel Rix (Vic)|
|DNF||Correy Edmed (QLD)|
|DNF||Nick Bensley (Vic)|
|DNF||Jacob Kauffmann (NSW)|
|DNF||Adnane Benhammouche (SA)|
|DNF||Matthew Warner-Smith (NSW)|
|DNF||David Pell (Vic)|
|DNF||Luke Aggett (Vic)|
|DNF||Andrew Arundel (Act)|
|DNF||Andrew Blair (NSW)|
|DNF||Etienne Blumstein-Jones (Act)|
|DNF||Nicholas Brain (NSW)|
|DNF||Cal Britten (Vic)|
|DNF||Hayden Brooks (QLD)|
|DNF||Fabio Calabria (Act)|
|DNF||Joshua Carlson (NSW)|
|DNF||Kel Chaffey-Jones (Vic)|
|DNF||Jason Chalker (Act)|
|DNF||Dane Crawford (NSW)|
|DNF||Andrew Crawley (NSW)|
|DNF||Conan Daley (Vic)|
|DNF||Anthony Dimotrovski (NSW)|
|DNF||Benjamin Douglas (Vic)|
|DNF||Peter English (Vic)|
|DNF||Sean Finning (Vic)|
|DNF||Joel Finucane (NSW)|
|DNF||Mitchell Flynn (Act)|
|DNF||Travis Frisby (SA)|
|DNF||John Groves (Vic)|
|DNF||James Henry (Vic)|
|DNF||James Hepburn (QLD)|
|DNF||Adrian Jackson (Vic)|
|DNF||Mark Jamesion (QLD)|
|DNF||Kris Johnston (Act)|
|DNF||Caleb Jones (NSW)|
|DNF||Brenton Kaitler (Vic)|
|DNF||John Kent (Vic)|
|DNF||Jason Kruger (Vic)|
|DNF||Peter Ladd (Vic)|
|DNF||Darren Lapthorne (Vic)|
|DNF||William Lind (NSW)|
|DNF||Jake Magee (NSW)|
|DNF||James Mcdulling (NSW)|
|DNF||Johnathan Millington (NSW)|
|DNF||Nicholas Mitchell (Vic)|
|DNF||Justin Morris (NSW)|
|DNF||Jamie Nightingale (Vic)|
|DNF||Lachlan Norris (Vic)|
|DNF||Travers Nuttall (Vic)|
|DNF||Ryan Obst (SA)|
|DNF||Chris Pescott (Vic)|
|DNF||Cameron Peterson (NSW)|
|DNF||Oliver Phillips (Vic)|
|DNF||Rhys Pollock (NSW)|
|DNF||James Quinton (Act)|
|DNF||Jeremy Ross (Act)|
|DNF||Malcolm Rudolph (QLD)|
|DNF||Sam Rutherford (NSW)|
|DNF||Graham Rutter (NSW)|
|DNF||Dean SAnfilippo (Vic)|
|DNF||Dale Scarfe (NSW)|
|DNF||Adam Semple (WA)|
|DNF||Stuart Shaw (Act)|
|DNF||Peter Smith (Vic)|
|DNF||Michael Smith (Tas)|
|DNF||Alexander Smyth (Vic)|
|DNF||Nicholas Squillari (Vic)|
|DNF||Reece Stephens (Vic)|
|DNF||Sam Stow (Vic)|
|DNF||Tomas Szollosi (QLD)|
|DNF||Peter Thompson (QLD)|
|DNF||Adam Trewin (Vic)|
|DNF||Michael Troy (NSW)|
|DNF||Paul Van Der Ploeg (Vic)|
|DNF||Steven Waite (Vic)|
|DNF||Will Wettenhall (Vic)|
|DNF||Edward White (NSW)|
|DNF||Graeme Brown (WA)|
|DNF||Shaun Mccarthy (Vic)|
|DNF||Marc Williams (Act)|
|DNF||Blair Windsor (NSW)|
|DNF||Sam Witmitz (Vic)|
|DNF||Tony Gaudry (Act)|
|DNF||Simon Bennett (Vic)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Will Clarke (Champion System)|