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.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Nicole Frain (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM||3:00:44|
|2||Grace Brown (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine - Futuroscope||0:00:04|
|3||Alyssa Polites * (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|4||Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Aus) Bike Exchange Jayco|
|5||Danielle de Francesco (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|6||Ruth Corset (Aus) VA Pro Racing|
|7||Neve Bradbury * (Aus) Canyon sram|
|8||Amber Pate (Aus) InForm TMX Make|
|9||Amelia Watkinson (Aus)|
|10||Justine Barrow (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM|
|11||Alexandra Manly (Aus) Bike Exchange Jayco|
|12||Rachel Neylan (Aus) Cofidis|
|13||Georgie Howe (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing||0:00:06|
|14||Matilda Raynolds (Aus) Inform TMX Make||0:00:55|
|15||Emily Watts * (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|16||Mia Hayden * (Aus) Women's Racing Project|
|17||Sophie Malowiecki (Aus) Giant Racing Team||0:01:00|
|18||Emily Herfoss (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM||0:02:10|
|19||Tilly Field (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM|
|20||Hannah Seeliger * (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation||0:05:41|
|21||Rachael Wales (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast||0:07:08|
|22||Josie Talbot (Aus) SydneyUni - Staminade||0:07:46|
|23||Peta Mullens (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM||0:07:53|
|24||Georgia Whitehouse (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|25||Charlotte McShane (Aus)|
|26||Courtney Sherwell (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM|
|27||Ella Bloor (Aus) Inform TMX make|
|28||Emma Pratt (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation|
|29||Katie Banerjee (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|30||Penny Slater (Aus) Canberra Off-Road Cyclists|
|31||Sharni Morley * (Aus) StepFWD Soomom|
|32||Emma Viotto (Aus) Giant Racing Team|
|33||Hayley Jones (Aus) Giant Racing Team|
|34||Elizabeth Young (Aus) Butterfields Racing Team|
|35||Cassia Boglio * (Aus) NXTG Racing|
|36||Haylee Fuller * (Aus) Team Rupelcleaning - Champion|
|37||Emily Fowler (Aus) Intervelo|
|38||Maeve Plouffe (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|39||Kathryn McInerney (Aus)|
|40||Lucie Fityus * (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation|
|41||Gina Ricardo (Aus) Sydney Uni-Staminade|
|42||Sophie Edwards * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|DNF||Elizabeth Nuspan * (Aus) Inform TMX MAKE|
|DNF||Eloise Sandow * (Aus) InForm TMX Make|
|DNF||Suzy Wood (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|DNF||Ashlee Jones * (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|DNF||Lisa Jacob (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|DNF||Keely Bennett * (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|DNF||Holly Lubcke * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|DNF||Anya Louw * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|DNF||Alexandra Martin-Wallace * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|DNF||Alisha Wells * (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|DNF||Alana Forster (Aus) Butterfields Racing Team|
|DNF||Nicole Mitsigeorgis (Aus) Cycling Development Foundation|
|DNF||Lauren Thomas * (Aus) Giant Racing Team|
|DNF||Jordyn Hassett (Aus) Giant Racing Team|
|DNF||Maddison Taylor (Aus) Giant Racing Team|
|DNF||Izzy Flint * (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM|
|DNF||Rachel Hore (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM|
|DNF||Saffron Button (Aus) Roxsolt Liv SRAM|
|DNF||Alli Anderson * (Aus) SASI|
|DNF||Meg Lemon (Aus) SASI/Butterfields Racing Team|
|DNF||Rose Vassel (Aus) StepFWD Soomom|
|DNF||Imogen Alton (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|DNF||Jennifer Darmody (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|DNF||Jessica Pratt (Aus) Sydney Uni Staminade|
|DNF||Julia Atkins (Aus) Women's Racing Project|
|DNF||Kate Bonner (Aus) VA Pro Racing|
|DNF||Nicole Wilson (Aus) VA Pro Racing|
|DNF||Darcie Richards * (Aus) VA Pro Racing team|
|DNF||Stephanie Hibburt (Aus) Camperdown Cycling Club|
|DNF||Pip Ash (Aus) Dhuez Racing|
|DNF||Emily Williams (Aus) Dubbo CC|
|DNF||Klara Nash (Aus) Harlequin CC|
|DNF||Celia Cowan * (Aus) Norwood CC / Keystone|
|DNF||Brianna Samuhel (Aus) Parklife Cycling Club|
|DNF||Amy Cundy (Aus)|
|DNF||Holly Harris (Aus)|
|DNF||Imola Giusti (Aus)|
|DNF||Lillee Pollock * (Aus)|
|DNF||Phoebe Thompson * (Aus)|
|DNF||Olivia Sens * (Aus)|
|DNS||Chelsea Holmes * (Aus) Inform TMX MAKE|
|DNS||Carlee Taylor (Aus) Inform TMX Make|
|DNS||Sam de Riter (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|DNS||Kate Perry (Aus) Knights of Suburbia Racing|
|DNS||Chloe Moran (Aus) ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast|
|DNS||Laura Chancellor * (Aus) Women's Racing Project|
|DNS||Ellie 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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