A stunning solo attack from Cyrus Monk (VIC – Drapac EF Holistic Development Team) saw the university student join an illustrious honour roll alongside the likes of Simon Gerrans, Rohan Dennis and Caleb Ewan, winning the 2018 FedUni Road National Championships under 23 road race in scorching Buninyong conditions.
With the race distance shortened to 92.8 kilometres as a result of extreme heat and high fire risk, the peloton was aggressive from the starter’s gun. By the end of lap one, a breakaway of mountain biker Reece Tucknott (WA – Trek Racing Australia), Ashley Mackay (WA – Australian Cycling Academy) and Macgregor Carter (VIC – VCP Loudéac) had established a 44 second lead.
As cross winds and intense heat thinned the sluggish peloton, a chase group led by Dylan Sunderland (NSW – Bennelong SwissWellness Cycling Team p/b Cervelo) and 2017 champion Samuel Jenner (NSW – Mitchelton-BikeExchange) formed. But as the breakaway’s lead extended, Monk took matters into his own hands – bridging first from the peloton to the chasers and then onto the lead group. By lap seven Monk and Tucknott were away together, maintaining their lead before the Melburnian attack again. Monk soloed to the finish with arms aloft, followed in 26 seconds later by James Whelan (VIC – InForm Tineli) and Michael Potter (NSW – Australian Cycling Academy).
“I have been trying to picture this every training ride for the past four months, so it is pretty hard to believe it has actually happened,” exclaimed Monk following his triumph. “I am sure it will sink in throughout the rest of the day.”
Monk’s win had echoes of the victories of Jenner and Miles Scotson in past years, with the rider taking advantage of an unwillingness to chase following the long climb each lap to sneak away.
“It did not feel good out there when I first went – I was thinking it was quite stupid,” said Monk. “I had just ridden up to Liam Magennis (QLD – Drapac EF Holistic Development Team) who was in that final selection with me and said, ‘I reckon we’re both looking okay for a sprint out of this group.’ Then I looked around 10 metres later and I had a little gap – that ended up being it. It was not planned whatsoever, but sometimes they are the ones that come off.”
Monk admitted that he was at first unhappy with the change of race distance necessitated by the weather conditions, but another revision – an added section of the course through the local university – suited his abilities.
“I think the course change definitely played in my favour” said Monk, who is studying a Bachelor of Science (Physiology) in Melbourne. “Having that extra section through FedUni is not that hard on the legs in terms of going uphill, but the technical punching out of corners is similar to what was I doing in Belgium last year.”
After the chase group caught Tucknott during the final descent to Buninyong, Whelan beat Potter and fourth-placed Sunderland in a bunch sprint to claim the silver medal. “It was really close in the end,” the former middle-distance runner said. “I was cramping in the end and I think I only held on by a few metres. I was pretty happy.”
Bronze medallist Potter acknowledged the worthy effort of the victor, and paid credit to his newly established team. “Hats off to Cyrus – he rode amazingly today, a well-deserved winner,” he said. “The whole Australian Cycling Academy has ridden incredibly all week. I was not the leader, but we had a few cards to play and I think we used those well and it paid off.”
The 2018 FedUni Road National Championships conclude on Sunday with an action-packed day of racing. The Elite and U23 Women’s road race commences at 8.50am AEDT, followed by the Elite Men at 12.15pm. The racing will be broadcast live from 10.00am on SBS Viceland and Fox Sports, and streamed via each broadcaster’s online platforms.