Cameron Scott (NSW – Australian Cycling Academy) secured an early birthday present on the streets of Ballarat on Wednesday, outsprinting Dylan Sunderland (NSW – Bennelong SwissWellness Cycling Team p/b Cervelo) to claim the U23 title at the 2018 Fed Uni Road National Championships a day ahead of his 20th birthday.
“We were initially looking for a sprint finish, but I found myself off the front with a few guys, including a team-mate, so that changed our plan a little,” offered a buoyant Scott after his victory. “I was always watching for Dylan Sunderland and waiting for a move, but he didn’t make one – so I just had to go for the sprint.”
Scott, a rising star within the men’s track endurance squad at Cycling Australia’s High Performance Unit, admitted that two-time Australian criterium champion Caleb Ewan was an inspirational figure as he seeks to compete on the track and road. “Caleb started out on the track as well, where I am at the moment, so hopefully I can follow in his footsteps in a couple more years.”
Despite being outnumbered by several strong teams, consistent National Road Series performer Sunderland showed his racing nous throughout the criterium around sunny Ballarat. “Being a solo rider up against several teams, I knew I had to play a conservative role – sit back and watch for the first half of the race,” he said. I threw a test attack mid-race to see who would react, and sure enough the Australian Cycling Academy was straight onto it.”
Sunderland attacked again in the second half of the criterium, with Scott, Aidan Kampers (NSW – Australian Cycling Academy) and Samuel Munday (NSW – Team Novo Nordisk) following to establish a potent breakaway. Sunderland and Scott were the only members remaining by the final lap, setting up an exciting finish.
“I had to be willing to lose it to try and get a victory,” explained Sunderland. “I knew it would be a hard task to beat Cam in a sprint – even with him leading out, he is super quick. I had a crack and stepped off the wheel – I just did not have the speed at the finish. That’s racing.”
Scott’s Australian Cycling Academy team-mate Sam Welsford (WA) won the bunch sprint for third, with the fast-closing peloton finishing only seconds behind the breakaway. Two-time world champion Welsford showed hot form during the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals, but was unable to get past his colleague.
“I wanted the win today, but I’m more than happy for my team-mate Cammy to get the win,” said Welsford. “I always say ‘if not me, then him’ because we are close mates and we always toe-to-toe in sprints. It was really good for the team to go one-three-four in our first race together, so exciting things coming up I think.”
The Federation University Road National Championships got underway on Ballarat on Wednesday, with the under 19 men and women’s criterium national championships.
Apprentice carpenter and 2017 junior track world championship representative Stephen Cuff (NSW) edged out Blake Quick (NSW) in a tight sprint for the national title with Canberra’s Matthew Rice winning bronze.
“I’m really happy with how the race panned out and how I finished it off,” said Cuff who already had an under 17 criterium title to his name.
“I was a little bit nervous coming into the sprint, I hit the front a little bit earlier than I would have liked but it panned out pretty good, I’m really happy.”
A fast race saw plenty of attacks with Jensen Plowright (VIC) animating the race in a strong breakaway before being reeled in by a determined peloton.
Silver medallist Quick also picked up the Altus Traffic Sprint Competition, powering across the line in pursuit of another attack.
In the women’s race, Brunswick’s Sarah Gigante took gold in a show of strength, bridging a 30 second gap to Sydney’s Emily Watts before attacking and riding to a solo victory.
“The gap [to Emily] kept getting bigger and bigger, I was getting a little worried. Even though the girls were chasing, it was up to 35 seconds,” said Gigante.
“I thought I don’t want to race for second, this is it.
“That was just the perfect scenario for me. I didn’t really want to leave it to a sprint because there is a bit of luck involved. Normally the cirterium’s I’ve done don’t turn out like that, with everyone time trialling, so it was just perfect.”
Norwood’s Sophie Edwards won the 4-up sprint for silver ahead of Watts, 53 seconds behind Gigante.
Gigante also picked up the Altus Traffic Sprint Competition thanks to her efforts off the front of the peloton.
Cycling Australia has advised that due to extreme weather being forecast for the region, and in the interests of the health and wellbeing of athletes, volunteers and spectators, the day of racing on Saturday 6 January at the FedUni Road National Championships will be shortened.
The Emergency Management Committee has made the decision in line with the event’s Fire Weather Guidelines.
The modified schedule will see the U19 Men’s and U19 Women’s road races now run concurrently.
Cooler temperatures are expected for the Elite road races on Sunday.
The modified schedule for Saturday 6 January is as follows: