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BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Miles Scotson (BMC) will wear the green and gold of Australian road race champion in his first season as a professional after a thrilling solo victory at the Australian Road National Championships today.
Scotson, who won on this circuit as an U23 two years ago, put in a devastating attack with 1.5km to go, leaving behind an elite group of 13 riders and powering to the line in Buninyong. Two-time former winner and pre-race favourite Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) won the bunch kick for second while fellow favourite Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) dashed to third.
— Cycling Australia (@CyclingAus) January 8, 2017
Scotson had come into the race with no BMC teammates to support him, no specific tactic for the race, and wasn’t even sure he’d finish the race.
“I just tried to be pretty patient,” Scotson said. “Early on today I was trying to get in the early move. I didn’t really have a tactic. I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to get around 18 laps today but I had really good legs.
“I kind of started pushing the pace on the climb five or four laps out and I was like ‘I hope I don’t push this pace on then climb and then get get popped — it’s going to look bad.’”
As it turned out, Scotson’s best shot at victory was one, big, late attack.
“Sometimes it can stay away here and I was like ‘I’m going to put a bigger chainring on and stick to the plan of just all-in really’,” he said. “And I was so glad I did because then I just waited behind in the last lap and then whacked them.”
A moment of hesitation in the group behind gave Scotson enough time to open up an unassailable lead.
“I just wound the gear out and tried to tuck low on that descent,” he said. “And I got to the bottom of that hill just seeing the gap I had — I just couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘Wow, it’s really going to happen.’”
Scotson has spent the past few years balancing his commitments on the road and the track and, in October last year, took the bronze medal in the U23 men’s individual time trial at the Road World Championships in Qatar. That result lead to a contract with BMC, setting Scotson up for the exciting but challenging transition to the senior ranks in 2017.
As national champion, Scotson, believes there’ll now be even more pressure on him to perform at the highest level.
“I’m just going to be racing in a national championship jersey in Europe this year — it’s going to be a big jump,” Scotson said. “There was maybe a bit of pressure — I’m not sure how this season is going to go whether or not I can handle it in Europe — but now I’m going to stand out so it’s time to lift my game.”
How it unfolded
The 183.6km, 18-lap race played out in scorching conditions on the hilly, 10.2km circuit up and around Mt. Buninyong. It took until the fourth lap for a move to stick, with Steele von Hoff (One Pro Cycling), Adam Phelan, Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) and Sean Lake (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness) getting clear.
The composition of that lead group changed several times in the laps that followed, with some riders bridging across and others dropping back to the peloton. By the time lap 8 began, the breakway was well established with Durbridge, Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data), Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott), Neil van der Ploeg, Pat Lane, Robbie Hucker (all IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness), Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Cameron Meyer out front.
Ben Dyball, bronze medalist in the individual time trial a few days earlier, bridged across a short time later, creating a group of nine at the head of affairs.
There was a lack of cohesion in that lead group — Durbridge and Ewan didn’t contribute to the pacesetting, with Gerrans in the bunch, and it was left to van der Ploeg to do the majority of work in the laps that followed.
Despite a lack of cooperation, the break was able to maintain a gap of three minutes between it and the ever-thinning peloton. This remained the case until lap 14 of 18, at which point the fireworks began.
Morton was the first to accelerate, putting in two attacks on the Mt. Buninyong climb in an attempt to split up the lead group. Dyball attacked twice as well, as van der Ploeg lost contact with the leaders.
Over the top of the climb, Morton, Lake and Durbridge all tried to get away but the eight riders were back together as they began lap 15, still roughly three minutes ahead of the peloton.
Morton tried to get away again the next time up the climb, Dyball likewise, but it all came back together once more. With the peloton riding a steady tempo, the gap came down dramatically: just 1:25 separated the eight leaders and the peloton with three laps to go.
The attacks continued from the break on the 16th time up Mt. Buninyong, but back in the peloton the action was heating up as well. Cannondale-Drapac recruit Brendan Canty attacked from the bunch, trying to bridge to the front of the race. He dragged Sam Crome (IsoWhey Sports-SwissWellness) with him, and picked up Ewan on the way through, the criterium champion having been dropped as the leading riders continued to attack one another.
A group of seven — Morton, Durbridge, Meyer, McCarthy, Lane, Dyball and Hucker — lead the race in towards Buninyong to begin the penultimate lap. Canty, Ewan and Crome dropped back while Matt Clark burst clear to chase the leaders on his own, 30 seconds back. At that stage the peloton was just 50 seconds behind the front of the race.
On the penultimate time up Mt. Buninyong, Mark O’Brien (Drapac-Pat’s Veg) — riding his final race — increased the tempo dramatically in the peloton, reeling in Clark and then then seven leaders. Canty then attacked on his own, opening up a sizeable gap as Durbridge set off in pursuit once more.
Canty stayed away all the way back to Buninyong, before sitting up in sight of the finish line. The runner-turned-cyclist, in his first year as a WorldTour rider, seemed to think he was on the final lap and soft-pedalled on approach to the finish. When the on-stage commentators told him he still had a lap to go, he put his head down and powered into one final lap of the course, but the damage was done.
With Canty having given it everything on the penultimate lap, he was caught by Durbridge as he began the second half of the Mt. Buninyong climb. Former national champion Travis Meyer, also in his final race, tried to come across from the peloton on the climb as Gerrans also accelerated. Nathan Earle (Ukyo) also tried to get clear of the peloton.
By the time five downhill kilometres remained in the race, a group of 14 riders had come together at the head of the race. Canty and Durbridge were there, so too were Gerrans, Haas, and Scotson.
Durbridge tried to get away, so did Earle, bit it wasn’t until Scotson made his explosive move that the race was decided. The 22-year-old South Australian, in his first ever road race as an elite rider, dropped a few metres off the back of the group, the powered through its slipstream to hit the front with great speed.
With no one responding immediately, Scotson was able to open enough of a gap that he had time to throw his hands in the air to celebrate as he crossed the line. A fraction of a second later Gerrans and Haas lead a group of 13 through the finish to take the minor placings.
The Australian summer of cycling continues on January 15 with the Santos Tour Down Under. That race will be Miles Scotson’s first outing in the green and gold of Australian road race champion and will see him working in the service of teammate Richie Porte.
|1.||111||Miles SCOTSON (BMC)||4h37:55|
|2.||44||Simon GERRANS (ORS)||+0|
|3.||49||Nathan HAAS (DDD)||+0|
|4.||4||Cameron BAYLY (ISW)||+0|
|7.||14||Brendan CANTY (CDT)||+0|
|8.||60||Robbie HUCKER (ISW)||+0|
|9.||92||Lachlan NORRIS (UHC)||+0|