Cameron Meyer (Team Bike Exchange) secured back-to-back victories in a thrilling photo finish to end an epic 185-kilometre men’s road race, the final event at the 2021 Federation University Road National Championships, in Buninyong on Sunday.
In one of the most exciting finishes to a men’s road race in the Championship’s history, Meyer, 33, reeled in his Australian Cycling team and Tokyo Olympic track teammate Kelland O’Brien (InForm TMX Make) on the finish line to take the gold. Scott Bowden (Tasmania) rounded out the podium.
“I drew every bit of thirteen years’ experience to pull that one off,” said Meyer. “Every lap I thought I was in trouble feeling like this wasn’t going to happen.
“That finish is one of the hardest to get right, everyone was legless, I was legless.
“I had to bring everything out there today because I had some shocking laps in there and I was hurting! But you never know what you can pull off.”
There was plenty of action in the early laps of the 16-lap race, with O’Brien featuring in the early breakaway of ten riders. Sam Welsford bridged the gap to the group at the halfway mark with Brendan Johnston and the pair blazing away to form a decent lead.
Kell O’Brien and Team Bike Exchange’s Alex Edmondson formed a chasing duo, however, it was individual time trial gold medalist Luke Plapp (InForm TMX Make) and Chris Harper (Team Jumbo Visma) who caught the leaders.
It was there when 20-year-old Plapp, Tokyo Olympic Track teammates with Meyer, Welsford, and O’Brien, took the road race lead with six laps remaining.
Harper then set his sights on Plapp, with O’Brien sticking close by to protect his teammate. The leading group turned into four as Harper, O’Brien and Seb Berwick (Israel Start Up Nation) joined Plapp as they hit the climb for the third last time.
By the bell lap, it was Harper leading O’Brien with a 37–second gap on the chase group featuring Plapp, Meyer, Durbridge, Nick White (Team BridgeLane), Seb Berwick, and Bowden. The group became one on the final lap, and produced an enthralling game of cat and mouse over the final few kilometres, before a thrilling finish in front of the crowds lining the streets of Buninyong.
“Oh my god, I get to keep the (green and gold) jersey for another year, I can’t believe it!” said Meyer. “I pulled that off because of Luke Durbridge!”
“He is unbelievable, somehow, we just pulled off a miracle. I thought we were gone and buried; I have no idea how to explain that.
“That was a nail-biting race, somehow it panned out for us. We thought we were done, the team committed to me and I didn’t feel that good with four to go but somehow, we dug deep and pulled off the miracle.”
Meyer is hoping to have more opportunities to wear the green and gold after COVID heavily impacted the racing calendar in 2020.
“Last year was such a highlight after I finally ticked this off the list,” Meyer said. “This was my thirteenth time in the seniors in the elites. I didn’t get to race in the green and gold as much as I would’ve liked last year so fingers crossed the pandemic goes away so I can get a few more races in.”
Meyer also paid tribute to his Australian Cycling Team track squadmates after the race.
“I need to retire soon before they get any better because they were unbelievable here,” he said. “I am hearing Welsford is off the front, then Plapp, then Kell.
“I’ve been training within the last month and I knew they had great form. You saw that at Santos Festival a couple of weeks ago. Today they fell short, but they’re going to be around for many years and I’m sure you’re going to see them on the podium say a few times.”
2019 team pursuit world champion O’Brien was pleased with his performance on one of road cycling’s biggest stages.
“I think the Australian Track riders get pigeonholed a little bit, but I think this week we really showed everyone that the track riders can perform on the road as well,” said O’Brien.
“I’m happy with the overall results of the weekend. I wanted to win, and I came here with the mindset of winning. So, it’s a bit bittersweet running second, but I’ll now use that to motivate me for the future.”
2016 Olympic mountain biker Scott Bowden, contesting his first race in twelve months after a year of injury and illness, was over the moon with bronze while riding as an individual without the support of teammates.
“It was super brutal out there, but I was pretty keen for a hard race given I was racing as an individual,” Bowden explained.
“I haven’t contested a bike race in over 12 months, so I just wanted to come over and give it a crack and in the end I’m glad I did.”