Chris Hamilton crowned Australian U23 road race champion

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BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Chris Hamilton (Avanti IsoWhey) has won the U23 men’s road race at the Australian Road National Championships, beating Lucas Hamilton (VIS) in a two-up sprint in the centre of Buninyong.

Last year’s U23 road race and time trial champion Miles Scotson (SASI) crossed the line third, winning the sprint from a chase group of five riders, 15 seconds behind the two leaders.

For Bendigo native Chris Hamilton, the win comes as something of a surprise, despite winning the Australia U23 criterium title in Ballarat a year ago.

“It’s pretty surreal – I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” Hamilton said. “This time last year when I won the crit jersey no one was expecting that — I definitely wasn’t — and today to come out with another jersey it’s unbelievable.”

Chris and Lucas Hamilton (no relation) hit the front of the race on the final of 13 laps up Mt. Buninyong, catching lone leader Chris Harper (State of Matter MAAP). The pair had broken clear of a thinned-out main group the previous time up the climb at the suggestion of Ararat local Lucas Hamilton.

“Lucas came up to me with two laps to go I think and he sort of said ‘Do you want to give it a go on this climb and we can ride it together?'” said Chris Hamilton. “I knew Lucas was going to be definitely the strongest climber so I thought ‘Yep, I’m going to work with Lucas’ and [neither] of us missed a turn all the way [to the finish].”

With 3.4km to go the two Hamiltons had a lead of just inside 30 seconds. While that lead would be eroded on approach to the line, they were ultimately able to hold off the elite chase group and contest a tight two-up sprint.

Earlier in the day, Jason Lea (PhysioHealth-Focus) and Rylee Field (GPM-Stultz) broke clear of the peloton in the opening lap of the 132.6km race, building a lead that would peak at more than two minutes. Lea sat up on lap three, leaving Field on his own with more than 10 laps of the gruelling 10.2km course remaining.

Field maintained an advantage that extended to beyond 3:30 on lap 5 as several groups and individual riders tried to bridge across to the front at various times. But it wasn’t until the halfway point of the race that several promising moves start to emerge from the peloton.

Chris Harper got clear, going on to catch KOM and sprint jersey winner Field on the ninth time up Mt. Buninyong as the field splintered behind him. He would go on to lead the race solo until Lucas and Chris Hamilton caught him on the final lap.

For Chris Hamilton, 2016 seems to represent something of a turning point in his young career. The 20-year-old has spent much of the past few years balancing his commitments on the road with mountain biking — the discipline that first got him into the sport. But in 2016 he’s looking to change things up.

“I’m definitely going to be continuing a lot more focus on the road now,” Hamilton said. “Mountain bikes have been good to me but I think now it’s kind of time to switch the focus a little more to the road.”

He’s applied for the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy — the development team that kick-started the careers of Caleb Ewan, Michael Matthews and many others — and is hoping to continue his good form through the Australian summer of racing.

“Things like Sun Tour are coming up,” Hamilton continued. “There’s always wildcard spots for the Tour Down Under and it would amazing to have a chance to do something like that. But you just have to take these things as they come and see how it goes.

He’s also looking much further into the year.

“I’ve been to the mountain bike world champs three times … I’d love to do it on the road.”

The 2016 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships conclude tomorrow with the elite women’s road race starting at 8am and the elite men’s road race starting at noon.

Race results

1. 7 Chris HAMILTON (VIC) 3h29:23
2. 9 Lucas HAMILTON (VIC) +0
3. 1 Miles SCOTSON (SA) +15
4. 2 Alistair DONOHOE (VIC) +15
5. 12 Michael STORER (WA) +15
6. 47 Chris HARPER (SA) +15
7. 84 Jai HINDLEY (WA) +17
8. 3 Ryan CAVANAGH (QLD) +1:29
9. 16 Ben O’CONNOR (WA) +3:39
10. 18 Jason LOWNDES (VIC) +3:39

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