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BUNINYONG, Australia (CT) – Twenty-year-old South Australian Jarrad Drizners (Hagens Berman Axeon) has taken out the U23 men’s race at Australia’s Road National Championships.
Drizners and Seb Berwick (St George) got away from an elite lead group on the final of 12 laps around Mt. Buninyong. When the pair reached the finishing straight Drizners launched his sprint early, easily putting a gap between he and Berwick.
“I knew we weren’t getting caught so it was just a matter of being patient … but [there was] obviously excitement as well,” Drizners said later. “I knew I had a better sprint than him and I went quite early with 300 [metres] to go, but it ended up paying off and I won by a decent margin.”
Alastair Christie-Johnston (BridgeLane) rounded out the podium from a small chase group, 14 seconds behind Drizners.
For the new Australian champion, the win comes as something of a relief.
“I’ve been wanting this race for a long time, since last year actually where I was fifth — I was hoping to come back for more,” Drizners said. “The TT didn’t really go my way [on Wednesday], the crit last night really didn’t go my way. To bounce back and come out here and win was really special.”
A breakaway group of seven riders got away in the opening laps and set about building an advantage over the peloton. On lap 5 Calan White attacked from the break to lead the race solo. He was joined on lap eight by Elliot Schultz (Memil-CCN) and the pair led into the final third of the race as the peloton splintered behind them.
By the end of lap 9 Schultz was on his own and maintaining a promising lead over the peloton and the groups in between — it looked as if a solo victory was possible. Back in the peloton, Drizners wasn’t particularly nervous, but he was ready to start racing in earnest.
“Being an individual [with no teammates] was a little bit tricky — I sort of had to play my cards right,” he said. “I launched about halfway [through the race] just to test the legs and I saw there was a split in the peloton. Then I went again with four to go and the same sort of thing happened. And then other guys started to do that [with] three, two and one to go. So it sort of formed the race for me and I could just follow.”
With one lap to go Schultz still led solo by 17 seconds, but behind him an elite chase group had come together and was closing in fast. Drizners was there, so too the InForm trio of Carter Turnbull, Rudy Porter and newly minted time trial champion Luke Plapp. Berwick was also in the move, as was Christie-Johnston and his BridgeLane teammate Tyler Lindorff.
Schultz was caught on the final ascent of Mt. Buninyong and a flurry of attacks soon followed, with Drizners coming to the fore.
“I got over the last climb with myself and Seb Berwick and we just rode away to the finish — we were just committed,” he said. “We both pretty much didn’t have a team so it was good camaraderie there.
“I just had the better sprint and walked away with the win.”