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BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Nineteen-year-old Sam Jenner (NSWIS) has emerged victorious from the U23 men’s road race at the Australian Road National Championships, riding to an impressive solo victory in hot conditions.
Jenner attacked from a lead group of seven riders with a little more than three laps of the challenging Mt. Buninyong circuit remaining. He powered through those final laps on his own to cross the finish line 47 seconds ahead of a chase group of nine riders.
Newly crowned U23 criterium Alex Porter (SA) was second in the small-bunch sprint, while last year’s runner-up in the road race, Lucas Hamilton (VIS), was third.
For Jenner, the win was a particularly satisfying one, not least because of the frustrating year that preceded it.
“A lot of hard work for me has gone into this,” he said. “Last year was really tough for me, having crashes and being ill. But I you know I never gave up. Just kept on getting up every time I got kicked down.
“To pull it off after all the hard work and that’s just unbelievable.”
The early running in the 132.6km race was made by a five-rider lead group that formed on lap 3: Ben Andrews, Josh Harrison, Cyrus Monk, Nicholas White and Dan Fitter. That lead group grew towards the end of lap 4 when 17 riders, including Jenner, managed to bridge across, forming a group that was bigger than the rapidly thinning peloton behind.
Dan Fitter attacked solo from the lead group on lap 7, spending roughly two laps out front on his own, before being caught by six from the group behind, including Jenner. A little over a lap later, with just over three laps to go, nineteen-year-old Jenner made his move from the group of seven on the descent of Fisken Road.
“It wasn’t really the plan but there was a bit of a lull in the bunch and I thought ‘Why not? Time to go’,” Jenner said. “So, I went and just backed myself and that’s all I could do really.”
Behind Jenner, the chase group swelled to 19 riders, with the remnants of the peloton having bridged across. Pre-race favourites Hamilton, Michael Storer and newly crowned U23 time trial champion Miles Scotson were there, but Jenner had an advantage of over a minute.
Despite the efforts of those in the chase group, including Hamilton who attacked on the penultimate ascent of Mt. Buninyong, Jenner went into the final, 10.2km lap with an advantage of 1:20. It was a commanding lead, but it wasn’t until halfway through the final lap that Jenner believed he could stay away.
“It was a bit touch and go there,” he said. “I started to cramp up the last hill. But I just pushed through it and when I got to the top and still had a minute I thought I’d probably have a really good chance of holding on.”
Jenner approached the finish in Buninyong with plenty of time to celebrate, throwing his arms in the air and yelling out in joy as he crossed the line. He was promptly hit by cramp as he came to a stop and needed several minutes to recover before he could make his way to the podium.
Jenner spent part of the 2016 season racing with the Jayco WorldTour Academy over in Europe, riding in support of riders like Lucas Hamilton and Jai Hindley. In today’s race, he was able to beat those riders, a fact not lost on the 19-year-old.
“Last year my role was really just to help the boys because there was a strong bunch of riders there,” Jenner said. “And they were here today as well so to finally say that I’m on the same level as them is … I’m pretty happy to say that.
“We spent a lot of time together and I know that they will be disappointed today that they didn’t win — they all deserve it as well. But I know how hard I’ve worked and I believe I did deserve it as well.”
|2.||88||Alexander PORTER (SAS)||+47|
|4.||28||Alistair DONOHOE (ATG)||+47|
|6.||9||Scott BOWDEN (ISW)||+47|
|8.||77||Cyrus MONK (DPV)||+47|
|9.||59||Peter LIVINGSTONE (MBS)||+47|