Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) won the Australian national road championships on Sunday ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) and Richie Porte (Sky).
Defending champion Luke Durbridge launched the first attack, just moments after the start. Simon Clarke and Mitch Docker joined him in what became a 17-man break on the 183.6km Buninyong circuit.
Clarke tried to get away alone over the Mount Buninyong climb, but couldn’t make it happen, and so with four laps left to race, Orica took the front and began to reel back the break.
“Clarkey was one of the best in that front group, but there were faster sprinters in the break, so we weren’t willing to go to the line with those blokes still there,” said sport director Matt White. “To have a chance at the win, Durbridge and Clarke knew that they had to go solo with two or three laps to go. It didn’t happen, so we decided to go with the safer option and bring things back for Gerro.”
Cameron Meyer attacked on the long sloping lead-in to the final ascent of Mount Buninyong, and Gerrans followed with Evans and Porte in pursuit.
“I wanted the guys to set a fast pace to keep it together going into the bottom section of the climb, so that I could attack towards the top,” said Gerrans. “Cam had slipped off the front a little bit, and then I attacked in the final few hundred meters of the climb to really try to get rid of the other contenders.”
Going over the top it was a four-man group — Gerrans, Meyer, Evans and Porte — and while Meyer and Porte both had their digs, it was Gerrans who proved the strongest of them in the finale.
“I stuck to my guns in the finish,” said Gerrans. “I knew I had good legs and as long as that little group stayed together I was confident I could finish it off. The whole team gave it everything for me today and I’m really grateful for that.”
For Evans, who was racing his first Australian championships since 2005, it was the first time he’d made the podium.
“When there is a jersey up for grabs like at the world championships, I’ve been second at the Tour, second at the worlds, and now second at the road national championships,” Evans said. “It’s either a jersey or nothing for me as far as I’m concerned. But I am still happy because it’s gone better than I expected, that’s for sure.”