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Welcome to Cyclingnews coverage of the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships. We'll be doing live updates from the under 23 men's and women's road races in Buninyong starting with the under 23 men at 10 AM AEDT, Saturday, January 1.
The riders have just left the start of the women's road race. Oceania Champion Shara Gillow is outright favourite in the 102km event.
The break went early in the under23 men's race earlier. Not sure if it will be the same in women's event.
A little later on, Rebecca McConnell, a winner of a stage of the Giro Donne in 2004 will be joining me in commentary to talk about the race today and the state of the sport.
The bunch is all together just prior to heading onto the finishing straight for the completion of the first lap.
We have had a few girls drop off the back following the first climb. No word on which riders just yet.
GreenEdge's Melissa Hoskins, winner of the 2012 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic leads the bunch through at the end of lap one. Emma Mackie was on her tail, followed by Specialized - lululemon's Chloe Hosking and Rabobank's Lauren Kitchen.
Chloe McIntosh is the first of the riders off the back, she's 1:49 down.
In some worrying news, Rochelle Gilmore is one of the riders off the back. The Commonwealth Road Champion is around 2:30 behind the bunch. Gilmore told Cyclingnews earlier in the week at the Bay Crits that today is 'D-Day' in terms of some key decisions moving forward for her immediate season. She pulled out of Thursday's criterium citing tiredness.
Rochelle Gilmore has just retired from the race, the bunch is at the top of the climb.
Meantime, Queensland's Katrin Garfoot has a 200 metre gap on the bunch at the top of the climb.
First points have been decided in the QOM. Garfoot, followed by India Faehndrich, and Taryn Heather.
Just checking the photo for the first sprint points today. Was a close one but from our prime position in the VIP tent, GreenEdge's Jessie Maclean looked to have it.
Lap time was 17:40.
Slight gap on the field gained by Kate Fraser Jones. It's been suggested that the Bendigo rider could be a bit of a dark-horse today.
Just did one lap, 1 lap too many. Looking forward to getting home to my local bunch so the boys can lift my level ahead of the euro season!
@RochelleGilmore Sat, 7th Jan 2012 03:05:10
Fraser Jones still holding a slender lead 200 metre lead as the bunch gets the seven laps to go call.
GreenEdge, with Jessie Maclean at the head of the bunch. Chloe Hosking (Specialized - lululemon) just on their wheel sitting safely.
The bunch is 40-strong at this point, Bec Werner of the Specialized SA team is the last rider there. Two minutes back, Alexis Barnes leads a group of four riders - Kristy Glover, Katherine O'Shea and Miffy Galloway.
Lets have a look at some of the contenders for the title this afternoon. Defending champion Alexis Rhodes (GreenEdge-AIS) made her intentions clear with the criterium win on Thursday. She's been putting plenty of time in behind the scooter back in Adelaide in preparation for the 2012 season after recovering from iliac artery surgery.
Carla Ryan is a former winner of the title, she's also in strong form.
Loren Rowney won the Honda Hybrid Women's Tour and looked to be in good form earlier in the week at the Bay Crits.
Sue Forsyth from NSW is a fighter, she'll be looking for a breakaway opportunity.
Lauren Kitchen (Rabobank) will also be one to watch, as will speed merchant Chloe Hosking (Specialized - lululemon)
If you're looking for a smokey, Lisa Jacobs from Victoria can climb and might look for a break.
Kate Fraser Jones has just been brought back to the bunch.
Jessie Maclean (GreenEdge) is leading the sprint competition now on 6 points having taken the second intermediate. She's in great form. Nicole Whitburn was second across the line.
Report from the top of the climb is that rain is starting to fall. The clouds are certainly darkening.
Kate Fraser Jones has just crossed the line at the top of the climb for maximum points. She has a slight gap on the peloton once again.
GreenEdge-AIS leading the bunch with just over 50 kilometres to go. That means there's five laps left to race.
GreenEdge-AIS' Jessie Maclean has just taken the sprint points again. Followed by Nicole Whitburn and Rebecca Wiasak.
Having a quick look at some of those riders in the top 10 - Tiffany Cromwell (GreenEdge), Amanda Spratt (GreenEdge), Bridie O'Donnell, Taryn Heather and Alexis Rhodes.
Reports that Lauren Kitchen (Rabobank) punctured on the last lap but she got back to the bunch safely.
Also, and slightly disturbingly, an egg landed just in front of the peloton as they rounded the corner after the start - finish area. Can I say this might be about to turn into a cracking race?
2011 NRS winner, Grace Sulzberger (Jayco-AIS) attempted to make a move off the front on the climb but was just as quickly reeled in by GreenEdge-AIS.
The fabulous Rebecca McConnell has just joined me here in commentary, welcome.
RM: Thanks Jane, it's great to be here.
How do you see this one panning out?
RM: It'll start heating up now with only 4 laps to go. We just saw Grace Sulzberger try to break away but GreenEdge were hot on her heels. They are looking very strong and appear to be working well together.
Melissa Hoskins (GreenEdge-AIS) has just abandoned. She's just tweeted "Job done for the girls" and she did what she could.
Bec, who do you think will be the strongest rider today for GreenEdge-AIS? They've got a few options currently in the top 10.
RM: Alexis Rhodes is looking very comfortable. She was sitting at the back of the bunch a couple of laps ago as the peloton came through the start/finish line. Shara Gillow is also strong and has come off a great week of racing at the Jayco Bay Classic.
So who is your pick out of Gillow and Rhodes?
RM: Depends on what their tactics are. Shara is a talented climber but Alex is also very strong on this type of course, as we saw last year with her stunning win. I predict there will several attacks with a couple of laps to go with both riders in the mix.
Grace Sulzberger and Tiffany Cromwell have just made a move on the climb.
Two riders also came down on the highway - Sue Forsyth and Bec Werner. Not sure of their condition.
Correction. That's Gracie Elvin that's moved away, not Grace Sulzberger.
Decisive break of 12 riders:
Grace Elvin, Alexis Rhodes, Loren Rowney, Shara Gillow, Amanda Spratt, Griffiths, Hogan, Cromwell, Taylor, Heather, Neylan, Ryan
Chasing group of 7 @ 0:10
Bec, women's cycling has certainly been under the microscope in the opening week of the 2012 season, how did you view the controversy at the Bay Crits with Chloe Hosking?
RM: The racing was fantastic by all riders and Chloe started with a bang winning the first hot dog crit in Geelong. Being a cyclist at the top level for women and men is tough no matter what. As soon as you finish a race you are still running with adrenaline. Chloe possibly didn't think about what she was saying.
Chase group of 7 has now joined the 12.
Gracie Elvin looking very strong in the lead bunch of 18 riders. Two-and-a-half laps to go.
Think we're in for a wet finish here at the women's road race.
Bec, no one has really spoken about Rachel Neylan yet. How do you rate her chances?
RM: She appears to be riding strong and still in with a chance. The bunch has wittled down and it will depend on whether any attacks will stay away. She will need to keep on top of her game as she is up against the GreenEdge and AIS team.
Last update was Jessie Maclean picking up one of her many many intermediate sprints for the day.
Current situation update: Amanda Spratt solo
Decisive break of 18 riders including @ 0:40
Grace Elvin, Alexis Rhodes, Loren Rowney, Shara Gillow, Griffiths, Hogan, Cromwell, Taylor, Heather, Neylan, Ryan
#hardunitbec unlucky 7th time up climb, crash and puncture, thanks to quick change #hardunitliz she is making her way back up there.
@SpecializedSA Sat, 7th Jan 2012 04:46:15
We're still waiting on confirmation of the 18 riders in the break.
Fastest lap so far of the race. 16:51
Spratt just came through. She's looking really strong.
Spratt's advantage is 34 seconds with two laps to go.
Sinead Noonan was 2nd last year in the under23 category so, as the only U23 rider left in the break, it looks like she's going to go one better in 2012.
Consensus here is that Spratt will take this. Tell us what you think using #roadnats on Twitter.
Chase group has diminished to 12 riders, the chase is looking sporadic at best.
Time gap is out to 50 seconds now.
Spratt coming into sight on the final straight for what will be the penultimate time. She just has to hang on for 11 more kilometres!
Main bunch comes through, and they've lost more time. 1:16 to Spratt.
Peta Mullens and Loren Rowney come through for their bell lap. Not the best course for them to be fair!
Bec, you've raced in Europe, you must be pretty pleased to see this elite group now leading the race and better still, all heading for a big season overseas?
RM: Yes Jane it's wonderful to see these riders putting on a great show today on this very challenging course. These ladies train very hard putting in loads of hours on the road and the ergo's. This is also a big year for them with the London Olympics around the corner where the standard is generally much higher worldwide with all riders aiming to be picked in the team and peaking in late July / August.
On the climb now, Spratt still riding smoothly. She's in the zone.
Lauren Kitchen and Chloe Hosking just came through. Off the pace today.
Crowd building here in Buninyong for the finish.
This is it. Spratt is going to have plenty of time to celebrate this one.
Big thanks to Rebecca McConnell for joining us today.
Real battle will be for second and third now. Who's your tip?
Amanda Spratt just passed the three kilometres to go mark.
She's just appeared on the final stretch.
You can see the pain on her face! Come on Spratty!
Amanda Spratt is the elite women's national champion!
Hands in the air from Amanda Spratt as she crossed the line. A very happy girl!
Tiffany Cromwell makes it a GreenEdge 1-2. Rachel Neylan gets bronze.
Thanks for joining us today, it's been a pleasure covering both women's and under 23 men's events!