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Nicole Frain goes solo to win Australian elite women's road race title

BUNINYONG AUSTRALIA JANUARY 16 Race winner Nicole Frain of Australia poses on the podium ceremony after the Australian Cycling National Championships 2022 Womens U23 and Elite Road Race a 1044km race from Buninyong to Buninyong AusCyclingAus on January 16 2022 in Buninyong Australia Photo by Con ChronisGetty Images
The new elite women's Australian national champion (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Nicole Frain (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) took a solo victory in the women's elite and U23 race at Australia's Federation University Road National Championships in Buninyong, holding off a fast-closing chase group after launching a late attack.

Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) led the chase group in to take second while 18-year-old Alyssa Polites (Sydney Uni-Staminade) came third over the line to secure the U23 national title, beating criterium winner Ruby Roseman-Gannon to the final spot on the podium.

It was a race that held together till the mid-point but then split apart with the lead breaks containing the riders that would eventually battle it out for the win. The crucial move from the firepower heavy lead group came with just over three kilometres to go as the field tackled the corner heavy section through Federation University.

"My last lap I was at the front and I trust my cornering... and I thought if I just get a little bit of a gap I’m all in. It’s now or never," said Frain.

Asked what was going through her head on the final straight, the 29-year-old said: "It probably wasn’t until about 50 or 100m to go that I thought this is real. Do I put my hands up? Oh shit how do I do this?"

How it unfolded

The race started and finished in the small town of Buninyong near Ballarat, with the elite and U23 women racing nine laps of the 11.6km course, for a total of 104.4km. The main features of the loop included a climb up Mount Buninyong and technical section through Federation University before heading largely downhill to the finish line.

It was a mild start in Buninyong, both in terms of the temperature and the racing as through the second, third and even fourth lap the field was all together, although the bunch was already thinning with riders drifting off the back on the climb. Among those battling out the back were also some that were caught in a crash in the second lap and among the riders caught and ultimately out of the race was the U23 time trial and criterium winner Anya Louw (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast).

It was unusual to get so far into the racing, near halfway, with no break on this course, even though the early split may not often survive. Last year was an exception, however, with Sarah Roy – who wasn’t on the start line to defend –  taking out the victory from an early move.

There seemed to be a reluctance to let a move go away too soon as with the make up of the peloton this year there could be every chance it would stay. 

A number of European-based riders are missing this year, with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to provide impediments to travel, and the usually dominant, and break chasing, force of BikeExchange was down to two, Roseman-Gannon and Alex Manly. A number of other WorldTour professionals were flying solo and well outnumbered by the domestic squads.

By the fifth lap the temperature was starting to rise, with the day’s top forecast at over 30°C, and the pace was also intensifying as they entered the climb. That delivered a split that included Frain and many of the key favourites including Roseman-Gannon, her teammate Alex Manly, Peta Mullens (Roxsolt Liv SRAM), Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM), Rachel Neylan (Cofidis) and Brown. 

Into the sixth lap and a group of three were out the front, Manly, Georgie Howe (Knights of Suburbia) and the ever aggressive Matilda Raynolds (InForm TMX MAKE),  with a chasing group 18 strong not far behind. It was then a lone leader in the seventh lap, with Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) out the front and there was a group of two, teammate Tilly Field and Raynolds, chasing behind. The three came together just after crossing the line for the start of the eighth lap with the chase group over a minute back.

Into the final lap and it was just Field and Raynolds holding out around 40 seconds ahead of the chasing group, but come the climb of Buninyong Raynolds struck out solo and the pressure in the now diminishing chase group started to build. Neylan went on the move but was pulled back in with around 5km to go. There were now 13 out the front, as Raynolds had also been swept up.   

Frain then took her moment,  leaping off the front just over 3km to go in what proved to be the move of the day. 

“Nicole attacked and initially I thought it wasn’t risky because we were coming into the sprint and I thought the teams with multiple riders would start putting the pace on a bit earlier than they did and that she would be reeled in,” said second-placed Brown. “But really the group sat up a bit and it wasn’t a good moment for me to attack then, so I just had to sit in and prepare for the sprint.”

The chase group came in four seconds behind Frain, with Brown winning the sprint from the chase group while Polites came in on the time-trial title winner's wheel. The 18 year old, who last year won the U19 road race, was fighting the cramps to pull out an adrenaline fuelled sprint for third that also secured her the U23 title in her first year racing the category.

”Honestly I was just trying to stay in the bunch,” said an ecstatic Polites when asked what her pre-race aims were. 

The elite and U23 women’s road race on Sunday morning was the second last race of the Australian Road National Championships, with the elite men’s race closing out the event Sunday afternoon. Brown won the elite women's time trial on Wednesday in dominating form, taking out the title she last held in 2019, while Roseman-Gannon was victorious in the criterium after two years of second places.

Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Nicole Frain (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM 3:00:44
2Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine - Futuroscope 0:00:04
3Alyssa Polites * (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade
4Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Aus) Bike Exchange Jayco
5Danielle de Francesco (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
6Ruth Corset (Aus) VA Pro Racing
7Neve Bradbury * (Aus) Canyon sram
8Amber Pate (Aus) InForm TMX Make
9Amelia Watkinson (Aus)
10Justine Barrow (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM
11Alexandra Manly (Aus) Bike Exchange Jayco
12Rachel Neylan (Aus) Cofidis
13Georgie Howe (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing 0:00:06
14Matilda Raynolds (Aus) Inform TMX Make 0:00:55
15Emily Watts * (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
16Mia Hayden * (Aus) Women's Racing Project
17Sophie Malowiecki (Aus) Giant Racing Team 0:01:00
18Emily Herfoss (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM 0:02:10
19Tilly Field (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM
20Hannah Seeliger * (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation 0:05:41
21Rachael Wales (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast 0:07:08
22Josie Talbot (Aus) SydneyUni - Staminade 0:07:46
23Peta Mullens (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM 0:07:53
24Georgia Whitehouse (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade
25Charlotte McShane (Aus)
26Courtney Sherwell (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM
27Ella Bloor (Aus) Inform TMX make
28Emma Pratt (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation
29Katie Banerjee (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
30Penny Slater (Aus) Canberra Off-Road Cyclists
31Sharni Morley * (Aus) StepFWD Soomom
32Emma Viotto (Aus) Giant Racing Team
33Hayley Jones (Aus) Giant Racing Team
34Elizabeth Young (Aus) Butterfields Racing Team
35Cassia Boglio * (Aus) NXTG Racing
36Haylee Fuller * (Aus) Team Rupelcleaning - Champion
37Emily Fowler (Aus) Intervelo
38Maeve Plouffe (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
39Kathryn McInerney (Aus)
40Lucie Fityus * (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation
41Gina Ricardo (Aus) Sydney Uni-Staminade
42Sophie Edwards * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
DNFElizabeth Nuspan * (Aus) Inform TMX MAKE
DNFEloise Sandow * (Aus) InForm TMX Make
DNFSuzy Wood (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
DNFAshlee Jones * (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
DNFLisa Jacob (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
DNFKeely Bennett * (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
DNFHolly Lubcke * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
DNFAnya Louw * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
DNFAlexandra Martin-Wallace * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
DNFAlisha Wells * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
DNFAlana Forster (Aus) Butterfields Racing Team
DNFNicole Mitsigeorgis (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation
DNFLauren Thomas * (Aus) Giant Racing Team
DNFJordyn Hassett (Aus) Giant Racing Team
DNFMaddison Taylor (Aus) Giant Racing Team
DNFIzzy Flint * (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM
DNFRachel Hore (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM
DNFSaffron Button (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM
DNFAlli Anderson * (Aus) SASI
DNFMeg Lemon (Aus) SASI/Butterfields Racing Team
DNFRose Vassel (Aus) StepFWD Soomom
DNFImogen Alton (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade
DNFJennifer Darmody (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade
DNFJessica Pratt (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade
DNFJulia Atkins (Aus) Women's Racing Project
DNFKate Bonner (Aus) VA Pro Racing
DNFNicole Wilson (Aus) VA Pro Racing
DNFDarcie Richards * (Aus) VA Pro Racing team
DNFStephanie Hibburt (Aus) Camperdown Cycling Club
DNFPip Ash (Aus) Dhuez Racing
DNFEmily Williams (Aus) Dubbo CC
DNFKlara Nash (Aus) Harlequin CC
DNFCelia Cowan * (Aus) Norwood CC / Keystone
DNFBrianna Samuhel (Aus) Parklife Cycling Club
DNFAmy Cundy (Aus)
DNFHolly Harris (Aus)
DNFImola Giusti (Aus)
DNFLillee Pollock * (Aus)
DNFPhoebe Thompson * (Aus)
DNFOlivia Sens * (Aus)
DNSChelsea Holmes * (Aus) Inform TMX MAKE
DNSCarlee Taylor (Aus) Inform TMX Make
DNSSam de Riter (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
DNSKate Perry (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing
DNSChloe Moran (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast
DNSLaura Chancellor * (Aus) Women's Racing Project
DNSEllie Hoitink * (Aus) Balmoral Cycling Womens Team

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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.

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