In the final laps of the 2021 Federation University Road National Championships elite men's road race it looked like Cameron Meyer (Team BikeExchange), and in fact the squad as a whole, had lost any chance of capturing the title yet after a dramatic turnaround the 33-year-old rider went back-to-back, topping a podium that was a picture of persistence.
There was a moment when talented 20-year-old time trial title winner Luke Plapp (InForm TMX Make) was out the front, Meyer was dangling off the back of the chase that the race looked all but over for Australia’s only WorldTour squad
“I was just hoping they would slow down up front because I didn’t have much in the tank,” said Meyer, of his mindset as he was struggling to hold on with two laps to go. “We had a hard race, we thought we had set it up right, we had three in the front. It didn’t work out, then the boys were riding for me.”
“You saw them try and bring Plapp back and I was like I don’t even know if Plapp is going to come back, let’s see if the first time riding sixteen laps is going to grab him? It did. Somehow it came back, we kept fighting over the climbs. It was just a never say die attitude. I just had to keep plugging away at it. This race just turns up some special stories every year and this is one of them.”
A big part of the recovery was down to the reappearance of Meyer’s powerhouse of a teammate, Luke Durbridge.
“When I got back on, we didn’t even know we could possibly win it with a 100 metres to go really. He [Meyer] is a classy bike rider, I love riding for the guy and the guys rode really well and we did it,” said Durbridge.
A perfectly timed sprint from a group of seven, which saw Meyer narrowly beat Kelland O’Brien (InForm TMX Make) and secure a second title is a story that has been far more than one year in the making, with the rider pointing to his long experience of losing that final race to the finish line in the small central Victorian town of Buninyong as one of the reasons he now knew how to time it just right in 2021. The two-time winner had been in the top six riders five times at Nationals before he finally managed to take the win last year, and he was on the podium two of those five times.
“I actually messaged Kell O’Brien a couple of days ago, we’re good friends and he asked for some advice, I said ‘bad laps are just as important as your good laps’, and I had to bring everything out there because I had some shocking laps in there, I was hurting, but you never know what you can pull off," said Meyer.
O’Brien, who was racing in the elite category for the first time this year, was also just as unrelenting as Meyer. The 22-year-old rider was out in the break time and time again and even after the efforts were constantly reeled in he was still fighting right up to that excruciatingly close final sprint.
Third placed Scott Bowden, too, had to battle to even be on the start line. Riding as an individual the 25-year-old rider made a last-minute decision to come to the race a week ago.
“This time last year I was sleeping twelve to six hours a day with glandular fever so I missed out on it and then I had a hip injury and then a knee injury as well late last year,” said Bowden. “I wasn’t even going to come here and I’d been training quite a lot with Richie Porte over in Tassie and I got the impression I was going all right."
"I haven’t done a bike race for over 12 months and I just wanted to come over and give it a crack. I’m glad I did.”
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