For the second consecutive year a surprise packet took out the Australian women's criterium national title, with Australian Institute of Sport rider Lauren Kitchen last week celebrating what was the biggest win of her fledgling career.
The 20-year-old from Port Macquarie, on the New South Wales mid-north coast, caught the field by surprise early in the event and together with Jo Hogan rode to victory, in similar fashion to another Institute rider, Carly Light, in 2010.
"We knew we had to race aggressively as we didn't have a sprinter," Kitchen told Cyclingnews. "Halfway through the race a small gap formed, someone dropped a wheel and Jo [Hogan] put her head down and went for it.
"I had Marv [AIS women's road coach Martin Barras], Dave [McPartland] and Nico yelling at me for the rest of the race," Kitchen explained, as behind her the Honda Women's Team, which had been so dominant during the recent Jayco Bay Cycling Classic, struggled to close the gap. And as was the case during the 2010 race, the sprinters' teams failed to take their riders to the finish to contest a bunch kick.
"I was a little bit surprised we got away so early. Spratty [AIS teammate Amanda Spratt] was sitting in and Honda was getting tired. Spratty's in good form so she didn't have to do any work and felt she could come over for the sprint if it finished that way," said Kitchen.
On a tough circuit members of the aforementioned Honda Dream Team struggled and while the prestige of the battle for the national title was brought into question in the days leading up to the race, Kitchen said that she's proud to be able to wear the green-and-gold in criteriums this season.
Not that she'll be riding many, however. A European program with the AIS is one of the highlights of her 2011 season, which is preceded by the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Wellington in New Zealand and the Oceania road championships back in Australia in the coming two months.