Alex Edmondson (Mitchelton-Scott) and Shannon Malseed (Tibco-SVB) claimed their respective Australian national road race titles on Sunday in Ballarat, Victoria. Edmondson was able to attack late in the race and hold-off a hard-charging select group at the end to take his first green and gold jersey while his breakaway companion was caught on the line and settled for third. On the other hand, Malseed played spoiler. She sprinted out of a select group and caught the solo breakaway of Katrin Garfoot in the final 50 meters of the elite women’s race to capture the gold championship medal.
The road race championship course in Ballarat centered around the climb of Mt. Buninyong, as it has done in years past. However, with Federation University coming on as the title sponsor of the race, the circuit was amended to go through the university’s campus. This meant a longer circuit, 11.6km, and a more rolling descent to the finish line instead of a plunge down off the climb. The climb of Mt. Buninyong topped off just under 3km into the lap. The extended circuit meant the elite men would contest 16 laps instead of the 18 they did last year for 185.6 kilometers and the elite women would tackle nine laps instead of 10 for 104.4 kilometers.
In the elite men’s race, a six-rider breakaway managed to separate itself from the peloton on lap three and would establish a gap of over six minutes to the peloton. A chase group of four would hover around a minute behind the leaders for a few laps before finally making the junction between the sixth and seventh time up Mt. Buninyong.
The ten leaders were William Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac), Robert Power (Mitchelton-Scott), Troy Herfoss, Sean Lake (Bennelong SwissWellness), Dylan Newbery (Mobius-BridgeLane), David Edwards (Brisbane Continental), Tristan Ward (Bennelong SwissWellness), Thomas Kaelser (Drapac EF), Troy Herfoss, Allan Iacuone and Peter Milostic.
Under the 50km to go mark and Herfoss had opted to go it alone. He attacked his breakaway companions on the descent of Mt. Buninyong and went about building an advantage of nearly a minute as he crossed the finish line with four laps to go. The peloton, which saw BMC Racing’s Simon Gerrans and Miles Scotson doing the bulk of the work, crossed the line just over three minutes down.
The 13th time up Mt. Buninyong would be unlucky for many in the breakaway, as the group shattered and split all over the climb into ones and twos. The peloton continued to power forward with the BMC Racing’s armada leading the charge. They seemed to be all-in for Porte as national TT champ Rohan Dennis led up the climb. The lone leader, Herfoss, has lost 45 seconds to the peloton in the span of a few kilometers.
A trio of riders attacked out of the peloton on the next lap to join Herfoss. Edmondson led the charge, followed by Chris Harper (Bennelong SwissWellness), and William Clarke. Clarke was still finding the strength to attack again even after being in the main breakaway of the day.
Edmondson drove the pace up the climb the penultimate time and only Harper was able to stay with him. His presence at the front of the race put all of the pressure on BMC Racing to chase. The leading duo held a 1:16 advantage over a select peloton at the top of the climb. Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin), who captured third last year, led the group over the top. Surprisingly, premier sprinter Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) was still in the lead group.
Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott) crashed heavily on the descent and early reports filtered in that he had a suspected broken collarbone. Simon Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac) attacked out of the peloton and joined the chasing duo of Herfoss and William Clarke on the descent as well. Once Simon joined the chasers, William buried himself early in the final lap to set-up the somewhat fresher Simon.
The final time up the climb saw Porte put in an onslaught of attacks. His attacks greatly thinned the group, but again he was unable to get rid of the rider most dangerous of all should the leaders be brought back, Ewan. The sprinter was gritting his teeth and hanging on, an impressive ride even should he not go on to win.
Edmondson set a vicious pace on the climb and briefly put Harper into difficulty, though he would not be able to drop him completely. The duo held a mere 16-second lead over Porte’s group as they raced down toward the finish.
It would be close, but Edmondson’s sprint would be powerful enough for him to hang on to claim the championship. The select group came home a mere second later sweeping-up Harper right at the line. Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe) would pip Harper at the line for second. Ewan settled for fourth on the day.
Elite Men Top 10
- 1. Alexander EDMONDSON, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, in 04:54:27
- 2. Jay MCCARTHY, BORA-HANSGROHE, at 0:01
- 3. Chris HARPER, BENNELONG SWISSWELLNESS, at 0:01
- 4. Caleb EWAN, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 0:01
- 5. Nathan HAAS, KATUSHA-ALPECIN, at 0:01
- 6. Chris HAMILTON, TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:01
- 7. Sam CROME, BENNELONG SWISSWELLNESS, at 0:01
- 8. Simon CLARKE, EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC, at 0:01
- 9. Brendan CANTY, EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC, at 0:01
- 10. Nathan EARLE, ISRAEL CYCLING ACADEMY, at 0:01
Malseed spoils Garfoot’s double
After claiming the national time trial championship a few days prior, Katrin Garfoot looked set to complete the double, as she held a slim lead over a select chase group entering the final kilometer. However, it was not to be as she would be swept up inside the final 50 meters and Shannon Malseed would take her inaugural green and gold jersey. Lauren Kitchen (FDJ), who spent most of the day in the breakaway, captured silver with Grace Brown (Holden Team Gusto) taking bronze.
“I’m so lost for words. I can’t believe that this happened,” Malseed said. “It is a dream, an absolute dream. This is my first year racing for a professional team, I’m so honored I get to wear the Australian colors all year.”
The elite women completed nine laps of the 11.6km Mt. Buninyong circuit near Ballarat for a total of 104.4 kilometers. Unlike in past years, a breakaway established quickly on lap one with Kitchen being joined by Kate Perry (Specialized Women’s Racing) and Mitchelton-Scott’s Jessica Allen. Mitchelton-Scott were again heavy favorites to take home the victory, beginning the race with seven riders on the start line.
Perry was content to do heaps of work in the breakaway and the gap settled around the four-minute mark. She would take home both the Queen of the Mountain competition and the Sprint competition at the end of the day. Kitchen and Allen were content to let Perry show her face in the wind and conserve energy by sitting on.
The sixth lap proved to be the decisive point in the race. The peloton would shave over 90 seconds off of the breakaway’s lead. The hot pace in the chase shattered many rider’s legs and by the end of the lap, a group of roughly 25 was left to bring back the leading trio. Kitchen and company still had a two-minute lead, but it was dwindling quickly.
The penultimate lap saw Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) attack at the bottom of the climb and shatter the chasing group. Six riders would summit the climb behind the leading trio. The select chase group included Kennedy, Garfoot, Spratt, Shara Gillow (FDJ), Brown, and Malseed.
Spratt attacked hard as the descent began and only Malseed would go with her. The duo would quickly bridge to the leading trio, making five in front, but soon a chase group of five more riders would latch on. 10 riders crossed the finish line together to begin the final lap.
The final climb of Mt. Buninyong showed who had the legs to fight to the finish and who didn’t. After multiple attacks, five riders crossed the top together. Spratt and Garfoot, who went one-two last year, were there and marking each other heavily. Malseed and Gillow were also present along with Kitchen, who somehow still had some fight left in her despite having been in the lead the entire day.
On the rolling descent back into the finish every rider in the lead group had a go attacking. Garfoot seemed to catch everyone napping and struck hard up the left side of the road with about 3km remaining. Her move came just before the descent steepened toward the finish.
Garfoot looked to have another green and gold jersey in the bag, as she entered the final 500 meters. However, she would just not have enough to hang-on and would be swept-up as the others sprinted toward the finish.
Malseed would prove to be the quickest and strongest in the headwind sprint to take her first elite national road race championship.
“In the last kilometer I was really calm,” Malseed said. “I just knew that if I backed myself, I could do it. I know I can sprint well if I get aero enough and channel my inner Caleb Ewan in a headwind finish. Luck definitely swung my way today.”
Garfoot would finish a disappointing fifth with heavy pre-race favorite Spratt one place better in fourth.
Elite Women RR Top 10
- 1. Shannon Malseed, TIBCO-SVB, in 03:05:03
- 2. Lauren Kitchen, FDJ NOUVELLE AQUITAINE FUTUROSCOPE, at 00:00
- 3. Grace Brown, HOLDEN TEAM GUSTO, at 00:00
- 4. Amanda Spratt, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 00:00
- 5. Katrin Garfoot, at 00:00
- 6. Brodie Chapman, CANBERRA CYCLING CLUB, at 00:00
- 7. Shara Gillow, FDJ NOUVELLE AQUITAINE FUTUROSCOPE, at 00:04
- 8. Lauretta Hanson, UNITEDHEALTHCARE, at 01:01
- 9. Lucy Kennedy, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 01:15
- 10. Kate Perry, SPECIALIZED WOMEN’S RACING, at 02:08