Nine-time track world champion Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-SCOTT) became the first Australian man to claim the Road National Championships trifecta after securing an emotional maiden road race crown in a stunning final lap attack at the 2020 Federation University Road National Championships in Buninyong on Sunday.
“I have no words to describe this. It means so much to me, there is a lot of emotion on this day, there is a lot of history in it for me. Twelve years ago at 21, I fell in love with this race,” said Meyer.
“It has been a long time coming, everyone asks me all my stories over all the years and now I can tell them this is the best story of the lot.
“I have had the time trial twice and the criterium, but this is the one I really wanted. I am going to have a few sleepless nights replaying this for sure.”
Twelve years after finishing fourth as a 21-year-old in his first elite race, and just twelve months after leading the race inside the final few kilometres before being edged to the bronze medal, Meyer added the gruelling elite men’s road race to his dual time trial (2010, 2011) and criterium (2013) crowns.
“Last year was so emotional, and with about three kilometre to go I knew I was going to win it and the emotion nearly took over so I had to hold it together,” Meyer added.
“Something ticked over in me there, I didn’t want to come back for a thirteenth time, I’m glad I have the jersey now and it is definitely a highlight in my career.”
Meyer positioned himself in the peloton for the majority of the day with the group racing at a fast pace and putting a stop to any early breakaway attempts.
Nicholas Shultz (Mitchelton-SCOTT) and Marcus Culey (Team Sapura Cycling) made the first major move, the pair opening up a 47 second lead on Jason Lea (Maloja Pushbikers) and Cameron Roberts (GPM Stulz) with a 1:47 minute gap on the peloton.
Lea and Roberts caught the leaders to form a group of four as they extended the gap to 2mins20secs. With seven and a half laps remaining, Roberts was dropped and the leading trio continued to hold their advantage despite a couple of attacks from the likes of Liam White (Oliver’s Real Food Racing) and Mark O’Brien (Inform TM Insight Make).
Lea was then dropped with four laps remaining, as Meyer and Callum Scotson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) made their move, forcing the decimated peloton to split into several chase groups over the climb.
Not long after Meyer and Scotson bridged the gap to the leading pair, Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-SCOTT), Jay McCarthy (Bora Hansgrohe), Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) and defending champion Michael Freiberg made it an eight-man race.
Team Jumbo-Visma’s Chris Harper, Nathan Haas (Team Cofidis) and Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton SCOTT) joined the party shortly after Shultz and Freiberg dropped off.
As the bell rang, Meyer, Hamilton, Durbridge, Harper, Haas and Culey left the peloton well behind as they powered towards the green and gold jersey.
Hitting the final climb with energy, Meyer got the crowd roaring when he attacked to give himself a 23second lead and by the time he turned onto the final straight, the national title was his. With tears in his eyes, he screamed with joy, crossing the line first with a time of 4hours48mins16 sec.
“This is the queen jersey, everyone comes here to win it, to conquer Mt Buninyong and take the road race jersey,” said Meyer.
“In the last few laps, I thought ‘phew, this is an Australian title’, there were a lot of world tour guys, a lot of firepower out there, it was a really world tour field. I was really nervous, I’m sure we all were, if you made one mistake, there was a good enough group out there you would pay for it. I had to pick my moment well, there were a few I tried that didn’t work, but there was an opportunity for me to go on that climb.
“It is going to be exciting to take this jersey (to the WorldTour) and I can’t thank my team Mitchelton-SCOTT enough, they’ve backed me for the last three years to bring me back on board as I strive towards the Tokyo Olympics this year.”
To cap off a nearly perfect day for Mitchelton-SCOTT, Lucas Hamilton finished second, giving the team four out of six road race podiums, with Amanda Spratt (1st) and Grace Brown (3rd) getting the job done in the women’s race.
“It was an amazing day out. Even with the women this morning and going one-two with someone like Cameron, who’s been one of the stakeholders of the team for a long time it’s a special day,” said Hamilton.
“Cameron [Meyer] has been here, like he said on the podium, for twelve years. He’s delivered for a lot of other guys and last year he got close to it just didn’t have the legs in the finale.
“And for this year for someone like him to pull it off … if you could pick one guy to win it would be Cameron so we’re happy about that.”
After leading the breakaway for most of the race Marcus Culey held on to beat Luke Durbridge in the race for bronze.
It was a long day, I went a couple of times in the early laps and I got the gap with Nick [Schultz] and I was not too happy with myself as there were only two of us and there was a long way to go,” said Culey.
Lucas Hamilton won the Langdon Building Sprint competition, Culey claimed the McCain King of the Mountain and the Altus Traffic Most Aggressive Rider award.