In a way it was lucky the Australian Road National Championships happened at all. Most of the other Australian summer races were cancelled due to COVID-19 and while
the pandemic impacted ‘Road Nats’ as well, the event was still able to go ahead.
It was a great five days of action, with some breakout performances from rising stars, and further confirmation of talent from some of the country’s best riders.
Con Chronis was at the event all week and captured the images you see below.
Carter Turnbull kicked off a great week for Inform TMX Make, winning the U23 men’s time trial. His teammate Conor Leahy was second, while Patrick Eddy (BridgeLane) completed the podium. In the elite and U23 women’s time trial Grace Brown (BikeExchange) rode the course almost two minutes faster than last year, but it wasn’t enough to take victory. Sarah Gigante (Tibco-SVB) was fastest for the second year running … … winning both the U23 title (ahead of Emily Watts and Anya Louw) … … and the elite title ahead of Brown and Nicole Frain. Luke Plapp (Inform TMX Make) was eligible for the U23 ranks but opted to ride in the elite category. It turned out to be an inspired decision with the 20-year-old putting almost a minute into the defending champion Luke Durbridge (Bike-Exchange). Durbridge very nearly missed out on coming to the event. He was in a COVID hotspot the day before the event and had to get an exemption to travel to the race. Plapp first, Durbridge second, and Kell O’Brien (Inform TMX Make) third. The riders took to Sturt Street in Ballarat on Friday evening for the criterium championships. Matthew Rice took out the U23 men’s race in a sprint finish. Defending champion Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo) was the hot favourite in the women’s race. A crash partway through the race saw Jess Allen (BikeExchange) and Maeve Plouffe (ARA-Sunshine Coast) hit the deck. Plouffe recovered to be the first U23 rider across the line. Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) has stepped up to the pro ranks in 2021 as an 18-year-old, courtesy of winning the Zwift Academy last year. Nettie Edmondson took the victory in a sprint finish after several riders crashed on the final corner. She’s pictured here with her partner Kell O’Brien. Edmondson with the gold, Ruby Roseman-Gannon (ARA-Sunshine Coast) second and Hosking third. A decent crowd turned out to watch Friday’s races. Luke Durbridge was hyper-aggressive in the elite men’s race and eventually sparked the winning move. O’Brien tried to bridge to the leading trio late, but couldn’t get across. Kaden Groves (BikeExchange) took the win from a group of three … … with Nick White (BridgeLane) second and Durbridge winning the bronze after his phenomenal support ride. The weekend brought the road races. Alyssa Polites soloed away to a big victory in the U19 women’s road race … … winning by nearly three minutes after also winning the time trial a few days earlier. Polites first, Lucy Stewart second and Isabelle carnes third. The U19 men’s race came down to a sprint from seven riders with Dylan George (BridgeLane) snagging the win. Zac Marriage was second and Aiden Sinclair was third. An early break got up the road in the U23 men’s race. Tom Benton (Inform TMX Make) attacked from a reduced lead group on the 11th of 12 times up Mt. Buninyong. The 21-year-old held on to take the biggest result of his young career. Impressively, Inform TMX Make duo Rudy Porter and Carter Turnbull punched clear of the peloton late to make it an Inform 1-2-3. Luke Plapp was on hand to celebrate with his teammates. He’d ride the elite road race the following day. On hand too was Inform’s ‘pathways coordinator’ Simon Gerrans, a two-time Austrailan road champion. Fair to say it was a big week for Inform. It was a cool and drizzly morning on Sunday for the elite and U23 women’s race. A strong group of six riders got up the road, including Sarah Roy (BikeExchange – obscured). Pre-race favourite Sarah Gigante missed the early move and was forced to try and chase all day. She made little progress thanks to persistent marking efforts behind. Roy made several attacks in the break and with 32 km to go she was on her own. The 34-year-old soloed to an impressive victory despite having trained little for this event specifically. A late move from a splintered peloton saw Grace Brown come across to take second – her second silver medal of the championships. Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo) held on from the early break to take third. 1-2 for BikeExchange. Last year’s men’s winner Cameron Meyer was on hand to celebrate with his BikeExchange teammate before starting his race. Roy will now spend a season in the green and gold bands. In the U23 contest, Emily Watts took the gold with an impressive attack late in proceedings. Bradbury was second and Gigante managed third place. In the elite men’s race a large break got up the road early. Brendan Johnston and Sam Welsford attacked from the early break and led for several laps. Meyer bided his time behind. Luke Plapp attacked from long range and led solo for several laps, building a lead that peaked above two minutes. It took a concerted chase from BikeExchange to help reel Plapp in. Chris Harper (Jumbo-Visma) and Kell O’Brien went on the move late. O’Brien had been in the early breakaway and rode brilliantly. After being dropped on the penultimate lap, Meyer fought back to the front with the help of Durbridge. It came down to a sprint from eight riders where Meyer reeled in O’Brien at the last possible moment (Image: Matt de Neef). Seemingly from nowhere Meyer had won his second straight Aussie road title. He said afterwards “I’ve done that sprint a fair few times, lost it, and I just got the timing right and somehow pulled off a miracle today.” Meyer with the gold, O’Brien with a bittersweet silver, and Scott Bowden with bronze – an impressive result for a rider who hasn’t raced for 12 months due to illness and injury.