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.”