Freiberg battles back to take elite men's Australian road race title

Despite having been part of a day-long breakaway at the elite men's Australian road race national championships, former omnium world champion Michael Freiberg (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) battled back to surprise leading duo Chris Harper (Team BridgeLane) and Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) in the final kilometre to win the green-and-gold jersey in Buninyong, Victoria, on Sunday.

Both Freiberg and Harper has been part of a four-man move along with Meyer's Mitchelton teammates Luke Durbridge and defending champion Alex Edmondson early on in the 185.6km, 16-lap road race on an 11.6km circuit that included the short but sharp climb of Mount Buninyong.

When the quartet were joined by Meyer, Harper's BridgeLane teammate Jason Lea and Conor Murtagh (Oliver's Real Food Racing), Freiberg and Murtaghe – with no teammates – looked like the men most likely to miss out.

But with Durbridge and Edmondson eventually committing to teammate Meyer, and with Harper arguably the strongest rider of the day, committing himself to a number of attacks in the final couple of laps, Freiberg quietly went about trying to stay in contact with Meyer and Harper, who led the race over the climb for the final time.

On the run-in to the finish, Harper and Meyer's game of cat-and-mouse heading into the final couple of kilometres allowed Freiberg to battle back once more, and having made contact with just 800 metres to go, he hit them hard, sprinting through for victory as the others scrambled, unsuccessfully, to get onto his wheel.

"To be honest, not at all," Freiberg said at the finish when he was asked if he thought he might still be able to catch Meyer and Harper coming towards the end of the race.

"At first I was just trying to secure third, but then I thought, 'No way – this is not really happening,' when I caught them, and then managed to stay away. It's quite surreal.

"I was severely cramping on the climb on the last lap," he admitted, "but I came good and managed to chase over the top of climb.

"I thought, 'They're not going to let me come past them,' but I managed to hit them with speed, and I got a gap, and that was that."

How it unfolded

The four-man break of Freiberg, Harper, Durbridge and Edmondson escaped the clutches of the bunch early in the race, and were chased by a 30-strong group that spent most of the day between the leaders and the bunch.

There were plenty of early retirements as the distance and pace took its toll, including 2017 road race champion Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ), who crashed early on. The attritional nature of the race meant that there were only 25 finishers, with those calling it a day before the finish including Mat Hayman (Mitchelton-Scott), Lachlan Morton (EF Education First) and Lotto Soudal's Caleb Ewan, who had forgone his criterium title defence on Friday in favour of keeping his legs fresh for Sunday's road race.

With 10 laps to go, the leaders still had an almost two-minute lead over the chasing group, and they looked strong, working well together, and by seven laps to go, the main bunch were over five-and-a-half minutes behind the leaders, and looking as though they knew their day was over.

In between, the 30-rider group could make little inroads, and, at just over 50km to go, it began to splinter under pressure from Ben O'Connor, with the Dimension Data rider eager to push the pace.

It was at this point that former national time trial champion Meyer decided to leave the chasers behind, taking Lea and Murtagh with him for the ride, and they'd closed to 1:37 behind the leaders with 45km – four laps – to go, with the rest of the chasing group almost another minute behind.

Meyer worked well with his two companions, despite the fact that he had two Mitchelton teammates up ahead in Edmondson and Durbridge. The team must have fancied the odds of three riders versus four, and that's what happened with 37km to go when the two small groups combined to make it seven riders at the front of the race: Murtagh, Lea, Harper, Freiberg, Durbridge, Edmondson and Meyer.

Almost as soon as the juncture was made, Durbridge put in an attack, and Freiberg was unlucky enough to unship his chain. Although the eventual winner was forced to stop, he quickly managed to get it on and again, and received a push from his team mechanic who had pulled over to assist.

When Harper attacked a few kilometres later, inside three laps to go, it was Meyer who reacted, putting Murtagh and Lea in trouble.

Harper attacked again over the top of the climb, which was enough to this time drop Edmondson, leaving four riders at the head of the race, while the chasing group – by now well out of contention – was led by Team Sunweb's Jai Hindley, who would eventually finish in the top 10.

Harper again went on the attack on the climb of Mount Buninyong inside the final two laps, with Durbridge giving everything for Meyer, who managed to regain Harper's wheel at the top of the climb as Durbridge then fell away and Freiberg was left to take the climb at his own pace.

Harper and Meyer continued to take turns until 3km to go, with Freiberg seemingly out of contention, 20 seconds back. Harper dropped back to tighten his shoes and to let Meyer take the lead, who then asked Harper to come through, audibly telling him that "Freiberg will come back and beat us both" if they didn't work together.

And how right he proved to be, as unlikely as it really seemed: Harper pulled alongside Meyer, but neither would commit, with Freiberg rapidly approaching. He made contact with just 800 metres to go, gritted his teeth, and opened his sprint, hanging on to take a memorable victory from Harper – third last year – and a visibly upset Meyer.

Results

Swipe to scroll horizontally
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Michael Freiberg (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast4:44:48
2Chris Harper (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:00:01
3Cameron Meyer (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 2 - Cell 2
4Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:01:23
5Dylan Sunderland (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:03:24
6Scott Bowden (Aus) Team BridgeLaneRow 5 - Cell 2
7Mark O'Brien (Aus)Row 6 - Cell 2
8Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 7 - Cell 2
9Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:03:29
10Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb0:04:16
11Conor Murtagh (Aus) Oliver's Real Food Racing0:04:36
12Drew Morey (Aus) Terengganu Cycling Team0:04:39
13Jason Lea (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:05:27
14Reece Tucknott (Aus)Row 13 - Cell 2
15Brendan Johnston (Aus)0:06:14
16Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb0:06:55
17Nathan Elliott (Aus) Inform TM Insight MAKERow 16 - Cell 2
18Ben Hill (Aus) Ljubljana Gusto Santic0:07:16
19Cyrus Monk (Aus) EvoPro RacingRow 18 - Cell 2
20Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Soudal0:07:19
21James Whelan (Aus) EF Education First0:07:40
22Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott0:09:26
23Liam White (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development team0:09:30
24Lionel Mawditt (Aus) Team BridgeLane0:11:45
25Alistair Donohoe (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine Coast0:12:42
DNFAlexander Edmondson (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 25 - Cell 2
DNFCallum Scotson (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 26 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 27 - Cell 2
DNFMathew Hayman (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 28 - Cell 2
DNFRobert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-ScottRow 29 - Cell 2
DNFChris Hamilton (Aus) Team SunwebRow 30 - Cell 2
DNFMitchell Docker (Aus) EF Education FirstRow 31 - Cell 2
DNFLachlan Morton (Aus) EF Education FirstRow 32 - Cell 2
DNFCaleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto SoudalRow 33 - Cell 2
DNFAyden Toovey (Aus) Team BridgeLaneRow 34 - Cell 2
DNFBenjamin Van Dam (Aus) Team BridgeLaneRow 35 - Cell 2
DNFNeil Van Der Ploeg (Aus) Team BridgeLaneRow 36 - Cell 2
DNFTristan Ward (Aus) Team BridgeLaneRow 37 - Cell 2
DNFToby Orchard (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine CoastRow 38 - Cell 2
DNFJonathon Noble (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine CoastRow 39 - Cell 2
DNFFreddy Ovett (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine CoastRow 40 - Cell 2
DNFAshley Mackay (Aus) Pro Racing Sunshine CoastRow 41 - Cell 2
DNFTimothy Cameron (Aus) St. George Continental Cycling TeamRow 42 - Cell 2
DNFRowan Dever (Aus) Oliver's Real Food RacingRow 43 - Cell 2
DNFAngus Lyons (Aus) Oliver's Real Food RacingRow 44 - Cell 2
DNFRussell Gill (Aus) Oliver's Real Food RacingRow 45 - Cell 2
DNFKarl Michelin-Beard (Aus) Oliver's Real Food RacingRow 46 - Cell 2
DNFClinton Edwards (Aus) Oliver's Real Food RacingRow 47 - Cell 2
DNFJesse Featonby (Aus) Oliver's Real Food RacingRow 48 - Cell 2
DNFPatrick Burt (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development teamRow 49 - Cell 2
DNFThomas Kaesler (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development teamRow 50 - Cell 2
DNFOliver Martin (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development teamRow 51 - Cell 2
DNFTheodore Yates (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development teamRow 52 - Cell 2
DNFThomas Coates (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo GitaRow 53 - Cell 2
DNFMichael Bettany (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo GitaRow 54 - Cell 2
DNFDylan Newbery (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo GitaRow 55 - Cell 2
DNFTom Robinson (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo GitaRow 56 - Cell 2
DNFCameron Layton (Aus) Futuro - Maxxis Pro Cycling presented by Velo GitaRow 57 - Cell 2
DNFDylan Lindsey (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing TeamRow 58 - Cell 2
DNFJordan Villani (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
DNFNicholas Canterbury (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing TeamRow 60 - Cell 2
DNFNicholas Leonars (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing TeamRow 61 - Cell 2
DNFNick Locandro (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing TeamRow 62 - Cell 2
DNFAlex Holden (Aus) Subaru - Anchor Point Racing TeamRow 63 - Cell 2
DNFHarrison Bailey (Aus) GPMStulzRow 64 - Cell 2
DNFCameron Ivory (Aus) GPMStulzRow 65 - Cell 2
DNFTasman Nankervis (Aus) GPMStulzRow 66 - Cell 2
DNFAden Reynolds (Aus) GPMStulzRow 67 - Cell 2
DNFCameron Roberts (Aus) GPMStulzRow 68 - Cell 2
DNFJulian Thomson (Aus) GPMStulzRow 69 - Cell 2
DNFJoel Walsh (Aus) GPMStulzRow 70 - Cell 2
DNFAaron Watts (Aus) GPMStulzRow 71 - Cell 2
DNFSamuel Hill (Aus) Team Nero BianchiRow 72 - Cell 2
DNFJay Vine (Aus) Team Nero BianchiRow 73 - Cell 2
DNFChris Miller (Aus) Team Nero BianchiRow 74 - Cell 2
DNFJay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-HansgroheRow 75 - Cell 2
DNFHeinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain-MeridaRow 76 - Cell 2
DNFRylan Dowdell (Aus) Butterfields - Appselec p/b Van Daam RacingRow 77 - Cell 2
DNFDavid Randall (Aus) Butterfields - Appselec p/b Van Daam RacingRow 78 - Cell 2
DNFWilliam Barker (Aus) Phoenix Cycling CollectiveRow 79 - Cell 2
DNFNathan Booth (Aus) Phoenix Cycling CollectiveRow 80 - Cell 2
DNFToby Stewart (Aus) Phoenix cycling collectiveRow 81 - Cell 2
DNFKevin Berwick (Aus) St. George Cycling Club TeamRow 82 - Cell 2
DNFLuke Cridland (Aus) St. George Cycling Club TeamRow 83 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Bonello (Aus) St. George Cycling Club TeamRow 84 - Cell 2
DNFMiles Scotson (Aus) Groupama-FDJRow 85 - Cell 2
DNFBen O'Connor (Aus) Team Dimension DataRow 86 - Cell 2
DNFNathan Haas (Aus) Team Katusha AlpecinRow 87 - Cell 2
DNFSam Crome (Aus) Team UKYORow 88 - Cell 2
DNFBrenton Jones (Aus) Delko Marseille ProvenceRow 89 - Cell 2
DNFZakkari Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling AcademyRow 90 - Cell 2
DNFRobbie Hucker (Aus) Team UKYORow 91 - Cell 2
DNFAdam Lloyd (Aus) MTOSS RacingRow 92 - Cell 2
DNFNick Spratt (Aus) MTOSS RacingRow 93 - Cell 2
DNFSamuel Volkers (Aus) Memil Pro CyclingRow 94 - Cell 2
DNFGene Richards (Aus) Rauland Development Racing TeamRow 95 - Cell 2
DNFAdam Nelson (Aus)Row 96 - Cell 2
DNFDamien Bovalino (Aus)Row 97 - Cell 2
DNFKyle Thompson (Aus)Row 98 - Cell 2
DNFAlex Kinnane (Aus)Row 99 - Cell 2
DNFMathew Ross (Aus)Row 100 - Cell 2
DNFJonathan Clarke (Aus)Row 101 - Cell 2
DNFTom Chapman (Aus)Row 102 - Cell 2
DNFLachlan Marshall (Aus)Row 103 - Cell 2
DNFTim Hoy (Aus)Row 104 - Cell 2
DNFTroy Herfoss (Aus)Row 105 - Cell 2
DNFBrendan Thornton (Aus)Row 106 - Cell 2
DNFJoshua Wilson (Aus)Row 107 - Cell 2
DNFPaul Redenbach (Aus)Row 108 - Cell 2
DNFDaniel Taylor (Aus)Row 109 - Cell 2
DNFStuart Smith (Aus)Row 110 - Cell 2
DNFChristopher Ball (Aus)Row 111 - Cell 2
DNFTimothy Clarsen (Aus)Row 112 - Cell 2
DNFBrendon Brauer (Aus)Row 113 - Cell 2
DNFPeter Milostic (Aus)Row 114 - Cell 2
DNFJacob Warman (Aus)Row 115 - Cell 2
DNFJoel Coxon (Aus)Row 116 - Cell 2
DNFCurtis Dowdell (Aus)Row 117 - Cell 2
DNFThomas Rischmueller (Aus)Row 118 - Cell 2
DNFAdrian Jackson (Aus)Row 119 - Cell 2
DNFGuy Kalma (Aus)Row 120 - Cell 2
DNFPeter Wakefield (Aus)Row 121 - Cell 2
DNFMax Hardy (Aus)Row 122 - Cell 2
DNFKelly Carter (Aus)Row 123 - Cell 2
DNFSteve Robb (Aus)Row 124 - Cell 2
DNFDarcy Ellerm-Norton (Aus)Row 125 - Cell 2
DNFAllan Iacuone (Aus)Row 126 - Cell 2
DNFNathan Jones (Aus)Row 127 - Cell 2
DNFSean Trainor (Aus)Row 128 - Cell 2
DNFJake Klajnblat (Aus)Row 129 - Cell 2
DNFJacob Langham (Aus)Row 130 - Cell 2
DNFTom Just (Aus)Row 131 - Cell 2
DNFTodd Satchell (Aus)Row 132 - Cell 2
DNFBrodie Talbot (Aus)Row 133 - Cell 2
DNFJustin Gassner (Aus)Row 134 - Cell 2
DNSRyan Cavanagh (Aus) St. George Continental Cycling TeamRow 135 - Cell 2
DNSRyan Thomas (Aus) Drapac Cannondale Holistic development teamRow 136 - Cell 2
DNSAden Reynolds (Aus) GPMStulzRow 137 - Cell 2
DNSJason Thomason (Aus) Butterfields - Appselec p/b Van Daam RacingRow 138 - Cell 2
DNSBen Spenceley (Aus) AMR Renault RacingRow 139 - Cell 2
DNSBen Harvey (Aus) St. George Cycling Club TeamRow 140 - Cell 2
DNSMatthias Kiernan (Aus)Row 141 - Cell 2
DNSKierin Lewis (Aus)Row 142 - Cell 2
DNSSteven Richards (Aus)Row 143 - Cell 2

 

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1