Cameron Meyer tried to hold back the tears as he talked about the dramatic finale of the elite men’s Australian road race national championships, knowing that he had again missed out on wearing the green and gold jersey.
Meyer stood in shock on the podium as Michael Freiberg (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) pulled on the coveted jersey and bit into the winner’s gold medal. Meyer collected the bronze medal and Chris Harper (Team BridgeLane) took silver after Freiberg pounced on them and blasted past them in the final kilometre as they played cat and mouse.
“I’m going to try to not cry too much,” Meyer said.
“I think I’ve been every position bar first. I had every opportunity and I don’t know if I’m more upset at myself or letting my teammates down a little bit.
“It’s hard to accept for me. Like I’ve been on the podium before so I’ve been wanting that green and gold for a long time. I know it’s a good ride and it’ll take a while that to settle in. It was a big day; you can see by the way the field finished, in dribs and drabs everywhere. It was a tough day out there.”
“Hopefully my twelfth time lucky next year.”
Meyer is a multiple world champion on the track but wanted to add the Australian national title to his palmares after a decade of placings. The Mitchelton-Scott team backed him and used their strength in number and the quality of their WorldTour riders to control the race.
Mathew Hayman, 2018 winner Alex Edmondson and Nick Schultz made sure they were in the early break of 22 riders and then Luke Durbridge, Damien Howson and Meyer bridged across.
Edmondson and Durbridge were then joined by Edmondson’s best friend Harper and Durbridge’s brother-in-law Freiberg in a four-rider attack, and Meyer and two others joined them with four of the 11.6km circuits to race. The final circuits took their toll and Meyer’s surge on the final climb of the Buninyong circuit distanced Freiberg, leaving just Harper as an apparent rival for the national title.
Meyer seemed set for victory but racing is dramatic because it is unpredictable.
Freiberg refused to give up and rode hard to ensure at least third place. Meyer and Harper lead by 20 seconds but began to play cat and mouse and call each other’s bluff. Nobody wanted to lead on the descent to the finish because everything was at stake.
Freiberg took advantage of their indecisiveness, charging back up to Meyer and Harper and then kicking again and starting a long sprint before they could catch his wheel. Meyer had little left in his legs and couldn’t close he gap, watching the title slip from his grasp in the final metres.
“I knew he (Freiberg) was going to ride tempo, I knew he didn’t have the acceleration on that last lap,” Meyer explained with regret.
“He was at 20 seconds and I knew he’d keep plugging away. He’s a big boy and you get that roll coming down the home straight and I’ve seen guys come back in that final if you fox too much. The problem is I didn’t have anything to really push to the line so I had to play cat and mouse. It didn’t work.
“I bluffed a little bit in the final there, I knew the legs had one kick in them. Freiberg went early and I was hoping he wouldn’t. When he was coming I tried to play the bluff on Harper and I had to get to as close to the line as I could with one kick and it was too much for my legs today.
“It’s all a bit much at the moment.”