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Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships 2012: Elite men's road race

Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships. We'll be doing live updates from the elite men's road race in Buninyong starting 12 PM AEDT, Sunday, January 8.

We're just about to get underway here in Buninyong. Field is assembling on the start line.

The riders are actually about to have their eardrums blasted by the sound of a musket going off to mark the start of the race. Boom!

Alright after much fuss, my internet has finally kicked in, so I'll be aiding Jane with the coverage!

Riders are away now on their first lap of the 10.1 kilometre Buninyong course. The overnight rain has cleared but the wind has really got up over the last hour leading in to the start. Cyclingnews spoke to a number of riders and team staff before the race and the general consensus was that the wind could swing the race in the favour of a more experienced rider.

160km remaining from 163km

Peloton should be close to cresting the first time up the climb. Nathan Haas has been reported to be active on the front.

Cyclingnews has had several long and contentious discussions over the past few weeks in the lead up to today's race as to who the favourites are. I think we worked out last night that there could be as many as 25 potential winners out there today.

Alex Hinds is with me again today from our prime position, so let's take a look at who we think might be there in around four hours time. We're expecting a fast race, there's a tail wind heading up the climb.
 

Wow. GreenEdge will not be pulling any punches today. Agressive from the outset as promised with Luke Durbridge and Jack Bobridge off the front.

We're just talking with Matthew Keenan, and we all agree, this could be a winning move with these three riders off the front, given the motors on them.

149km remaining from 163km

Boys are absolutely flying. Matt Keenan has already tipped this early move may stay away. Big call, but no shortage of strength in the escape.

146km remaining from 163km

The guys on the descent, move is still away. The chase has split, though it seems it'll likely come back together again, not much of a gap.

144km remaining from 163km

Mark O'Brien (Budget Forklifts) trying to cross the gap from the chase. He's a really quality rider, and only knows one way to ride, on the attack.

143km remaining from 163km

Peloton coming into sight for the end of lap two. The escape is still ahead of them. Gap holding.

143km remaining from 163km

Escape has been caught. Budget Forklifts rider takes the sprint.

It was Sam Witmitz who ended up taking the sprint on Lap 2.

So, let's take a look at some of the contender in the field today, there's plenty of them!

A good place to start is defending champion, Jack Bobridge. He'll certainly be doing a lot of work for his new GreenEdge team today - how much of that effects his chances is something that needs to be considered. Definitely a danger man in the sprint though.

Did I say sprint? I meant breakaway. It's a little bit exciting out at Buninyong today. Rarely has there been such a buzz about this national event.

137km remaining from 163km

Great thing about a guy like Bobridge is he can sit on the front for GreenEdge if need be all day. The same goes for Durbridge. But realistically there are only a handful of guys that GreenEdge will be counting on today. Let's go through them starting with Simon Gerrans.

Gerrans, is a proven performer and certainly the protected rider for GreenEdge today.

There is a theory that, with the green and gold bands such a significant target for the new WorldTour team, that it's one of their big hitters that needs to be flying the flag. It's not a bad point.

Gerrans is going really well at the moment or so says the riders we spoke to this morning before the race. Someone who has just appeared on the radar, and has been flying low is the veteran Stuart O'Grady. He's won the jersey before - back in 2003. It's been a while but why not! He is in the break.

Alex, you'll have to be careful calling O'Grady a "veteran"... He prefers "elder statesman"!

Another of the GreenEdge men that need to be considered, and for some reason is flying under the radar - and he actually prefers it that way - is Cameron Meyer.

He's been biding his time during the off season back in Perth getting plenty of hard training done. He looks fit and he's certainly up for it.

132km remaining from 163km

Another sub 15 minute lap.

Second intermediate sprint,

1 - Stuart O'Grady

2 - Will Clarke

3 - Sam Witmitz

4 - Phil Grenfell

Why haven't we mentioned the favourite on the tote for today's race, Matt Goss? It's unfortunate for GreenEdge's number one signing, but his form this January is still a fair way off what we saw in 2011. He's also had a slight niggle with his knee in recent weeks although it doesn't seem to be bothering him that much.

129km remaining from 163km

Look out for Goss in the early Spring classics where he'll be looking to defend his Milan-San Remo crown.

While GreenEdge have been heavily talked about, with their 16 rider strong team. The other WorldTour teams, and there are a few will no doubt be trying to form their own bloc. Garmin-Cervelo have three riders including Von Hoff, Sky have four including new signing Porte and Rabobank have Brown, Matthews and of course Mr. Renshaw.

125km remaining from 163km

O'Grady, Will Clarke

Peloton at 1:05.
 

Jane you talked to Renshaw earlier this month, how did he say the legs were when you spoke to him then?

Mark certainly seemed confident in where he was at heading into this weekend of racing, given he was taking on both the criterium on Thursday night where he took the silver medal, but he's the first to admit that he's really not suited for this course at Buninyong.

However, with that, his result at the criterium championships really got people talking about him as a serious contender for today's road race. I may have put a small bit of coin in his direction when I was placing my bets last night! He does look to be in great shape.

Patrick Shaw has crossed the gap. Ballarat boy and super motivated.

Alex, one thing is certain, there are plenty of smaller teams lining up to knock GreenEdge off their perch today and certainly cannot be discounted.

We've just seen Pat Shaw, who was described by teammate Anthony Giacoppo on Thursday evening as 'domestique extraordinare' and he's certainly matured over the last 12 months, bridge the gap. What are your thoughts?

122km remaining from 163km

Sorry Jane, just a quick race update as the break comes though: O'Grady, Clarke, Shaw. The chase is more than 30 seconds behind.

120km remaining from 163km

Ben Dyball (Genesys) is in the chasing group of 15. He won the under 23 championship last year, so it's fair to say he can do OK on this course. He had a tough year in 2011. Never quite broke through for that big result. But a really talented climber. Be interesting to see how he'll go.

Both Sulzberger brothers are in the front group. Bit of brotherly love perhaps to decide the championship?

Anyway, back to the smaller teams racing today. Managed to speak to a few NRS managers who were frank about their chances but did mention that they would be trying to work together if at all possible.

Drapac team boss Breekveldt said - "There have been discussions, but I'll also leave that to the guys on the road. That's what the older riders like Stuart Shaw are really good at."

Last update from the KOM and Pat Shaw (Genesys) has taken the point on offer there. O'Grady and Clarke behind.

Genesys also can never been written off. They've proven time and time again that they can "surprise" at bigger races. Giacoppo won on Thursday, can Pat Shaw take a result today?

112km remaining from 163km

Race update: Coming through for the fifth lap of the race. Looks like the lead group has swelled. Names to come.

112km remaining from 163km

Points at end of lap 5

Sprint uncontested, GreenEdge led the leaders through.

1 Wilson

2 W. Sulzberger

3 Durbridge.

Will Clarke is looking good at the moment. We saw him in Thursday night's criterium championships where he finished

Clarke has moved across to Champion Systems the new ProConti outfit for 2012 after missing out on a spot on the roster for the newly merged RadioShack-Nissan-Trek, having been with Leopard-Trek.

While I am talking about the Tassie boys and you brushed over it before, I really believe that 2012 is going to be a resurgence in the careers of Wes and Bernie Sulzberger. They both performed really well at the Jayco Bay Classic.

107km remaining from 163km

Race update: This front group looks to be the decisive one. A number of teams have more than one rider including, Genesys (2), Drapac (2), GreenEdge (9), Haussler, Porte, Renshaw, Crawford, Clarke and Hansen are all on their own.

I managed to have a quick work with GreenEdge financier Gerry Ryan before today's race and he had a few interesting things to say, as always.

He certainly wasn't nervous and said he rarely does get pre-race jitters however he admitted to only getting cranky when results don't go his way - and that includes with his horses.

Speaking of which, GreenEdge the horse, was racing in Ballarat on Thursday and a lot of people did their dough. Including myself. GreenEdge the horse finished 5th, apparently he got boxed in with Gerry blaming "pilot error". He'll be hoping it wasn't a sign of things to come today.

102km remaining from 163km

Coming up to 90 minutes of racing now as the break approaches the finish straight for 10 laps to go.

98km remaining from 163km

Jane has gone to do some recon at the top of the course so it's just me for the next little bit.

96km remaining from 163km

Gap is still very healthy. Seems that the peloton has been decimated. Reports from the back end of the course say the chase has dwindled to around 20 riders. 20 against 20 bodes well for the break.

92km remaining from 163km

Apologies to Michael Rogers (Sky), we missed him sneak into the move when it formed. So the leaders are 21!

Surprisingly the gap has reduced.

Just heading up to the climb now and the crowds are absolutely huge with  nine laps to go. Thousands of people strewn across the road..

92km remaining from 163km

There's been a split in the lead group. Matt Wilson, Shaw, Renshaw, Durbridge, Clarke, W.Sulzberger.

84km remaining from 163km

Howard's done for the day. He's just gone backwards.

Lots of chopping and changing in the front group will update, more fully when the race settles a bit.

For those that don't know the Buninyong course, I'll run you through it.

The course is 10.1 kilometres long and starts almost immediately with a 2.6 kilometre climb on dead roads to the KOM.

After the KOM the race hits a false flat which last for another kilometre before the riders begin a long a technical descent.

From 3 kilometres to go it's all flat, if slightly downhill. The finishing straight comes after a final 90 degree corner, before the 400 metre sprint to the line.

75km remaining from 163km

Race update: Front eight

Pat Shaw (Genesys), Wilson, W. Sulzberger, B. Sulzberger, Will Clarke (Champion System), Durbridge, Cameron Meyer, Renshaw


Rogers and Gerrans in no man's land.

 

Second group @ 0:22: O'Grady (GreenEdge), Luke Roberts, Ben Dyball, Lapthorne, Haussler, Porte, Adam Semple, Jai Crawford, Bobridge, Adam Hansen, Baden Cooke,

I'm just sitting behind the Hansen group on the road. There's a lot of looking around.

Michael Cupitt has crashed from the third chase. Not serious.

Bobridge has blown up on the false flat. Not sure if he'll be able to rejoin the second group or not.

Luke Durbridge has just gone away from the chase group.with Durbridge in hot pursuit

Hansen group #roadnats http://t.co/SbCueCbY

@janeaubrey Sun, 8th Jan 2012 03:26:18

72km remaining from 163km

Here they come. The group of eight riders seem to be rolling through. Cameron Meyer is GreenEdge's protected rider based on the order of GreenEdge riders in the group.

68km remaining from 163km

Lloyd is part of a third chase group.

Okay, things are about to get interesting. It seems as though the front three groups are about to become one. Race on! We'll get you an update as soon as we can.

65km remaining from 163km

The groups look like they may come together here. Race on! Which card wil GreenEdge play now?

64km remaining from 163km

This lap is going to be a real fast one.

62km remaining from 163km

Cameron Meyer and Matt Wilson have made a really determined move off the front. Two GreenEdge riders in a move - this is dangerous.

62km remaining from 163km

Attacks in the bunch behind. The gap is large though at more than a minute.

Wes Sulzberger and Renshaw were seen marking the back of the chase group. Saving themselves or are the hurting a bit?

Stuart O'Grady is marking all the moves. Making it really hard for the riders in the chase to get across.

57km remaining from 163km

Riders cresting the climb for the eleventh time.

 

Meyer has gone away on his own.

51km remaining from 163km

Ten and a half laps gone. Cameron Meyer is looking really good out front.

Seems like a long way to the finish for Meyer to go solo. He's still the current time trial champion though so we know he can ride alone.

47km remaining from 163km

Just over four laps to go. Haussler and Durbridge are trying to get across the gap. Well, Haussler is. "Turbo Durbo" is just sitting on.

44km remaining from 163km

Michael Matthews has jumped in the sag wagon. Too early in the season for the former under 23 world champion to show us what he's made of.

40km remaining from 163km

It has to be hard for Haussler, he's towing the under 23 time trial world champion toward Meyer. Can't be easy for your motivation.

Heinrich is getting some aid from the Genesys Wealth Adviser team car. If that's not strange enough it seems Allan Peiper is in the car with the Genesys staff. The obvious link is Haas and Von Hoff. Quite overt collusion though.

40km remaining from 163km

Meyer is flying. In other news Mark Renshaw has now abandoned according to reports. A little bit hard even for a super Renshaw to win this one.

Haussler comes through for four to go. Looks smoother than Meyer, but the gap is still out around the 2:30 mark.

Pat Shaw just came through. Looks like he'll be jumping off the bike shortly. Great race from the local from Ballarat.

Matt Hayman is doing his best to close down the gap to the three riders in the escape. A tough ask though!

We're due to see Cameron Meyer go through the start finish area to get the three laps to go sign.

The cow bells are out in force here as Meyer goes through. If there's good news for Haussler and Durbridge, it's that Meyer is slowing down. That last lap was 17:12.

That works out to be Meyer's slowest lap so far. And certainly some way from his blistering 14:58 earlier.

Matt Wilson is flying solo, he's just gone through at 4:24 behind Meyer. Job done though.

Cam Meyer is about to be caught, he's just hurting too much so here we go. I hope you're all strapped in!

With two and a half laps to go, this is now falling back into the hands of Simon Gerrans, the protected rider for GreenEdge. The man to go after Gerrans' attack, it Richie Porte.

Will Clarke has just gone off the front.

Wes Sulzberger is keeping an eye on Clarke.

20km remaining from 163km

Hayman, O'Grady are off the front by 25 seconds.

Be a dream story if O'Grady could win for GreenEdge. He's one of the most respected Australian riders out there.

I would love to see Matty Hayman win this race

@JoeLewis1989 Sun, 8th Jan 2012 04:53:35

Looks like there could be some rain just in time for the finish. Cyclingnews in our open position is not so happy about that.

15km remaining from 163km

Lloyd attacks on the climb! Gerrans and Porte trying to get on!

Porte goes again.

If it rains, my laptop will get wet. #justsaying This is self-less commentary right here.

10km remaining from 163km

Lots of nerves in the group.

This is going to be a great finish, Gerrans has to be favourite now. But if Sutton comes back to the leaders.

Gerrans looking smooth. Richie in full time trial mode.

1km remaining from 163km

On the descent, looks like it has to Lloyd versus Gerrans in the finale.

Lloyd still happy to work. Not sure I agree with that from Lloyd.

Lloyd, Porte and Gerrans, all together. Lloyd attacks!

Gerrans wins! Lloyd second, Porte third.

Thanks for joining us today! It was a challenge with so many people at Buninyong overloading the network but we got there. We've seen a deserved Australian National Championship with Gerrans, and a top quality race.

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