More than 7,500 fans lined the streets of the Ballarat CBD in searing temperatures to witness a host of the world’s fastest cyclists light up the opening day of the 2019 FedUni Road National Championships on Friday 4 January.
In the feature criterium finals, Victoria’s Brenton Jones claimed an emotional maiden crown, while Canberra’s Rebecca Wiasak emphatically defended her title.
South Australia’s Jarrad Drizners, plus Victorians Ruby-Roseman-Gannon, Ashlee Jones and Jesse Norton claimed crowns in the under 23 and under 19 events.
Crowd and peloton alike enjoyed cooling conditions by the time the men’s Elite race kicked off at Elite Men’s Criterium 6:30pm. And while the weather was kindly, there wasn’t a quiet moment for much of the 44-kilometre criterium.
It was a race that offered much to the throng of fans along the Sturt Street Ballarat course with multiple opening and closing gaps. The final event of the day came down to the dying moments, which saw sprint specialist Brenton Jones (Delko Marseille Provence) take the gold medal honours.
A sentimental favourite, Jones’ win showed the character of a man who had endured his fair share of setbacks after a life-threatening crash during the 2011 National Road Series. Standing atop the podium was a fair reward for the Warragul cyclist who claimed his maiden win following four appearances on the lower steps of the podium in the past five years.
Tristan Ward (Team BridgeLane) backed up his sensational 2018 National Road Series season with silver, finishing just a half a wheel behind Jones in a thrilling sprint to the line, while Jay McCarthy (Bora Hansgrohe) crossed the line solo for third.
Guy Kalma more than deserved his Altus Traffic Most Aggressive Rider jersey, after a solid performance that saw him keep the race interesting by stirring the peloton on many occasions.
Brenton Jones: “I don’t think it has sunk in yet, I think it will later on tonight when I sit down and see the green and gold jersey in my bedroom. I think it’s quite special and a lot of hard work and perseverance over the years to get to the top step. It has been a challenge but to finally get there is a massive reward for everyone that’s helped and supported me along the way.”
“A pat on the back to myself for just persevering and not letting people distract me from never trying to get to the top step. I have tonight and it’s fantastic.”
Rebecca Wiasak (Fearless Femme Racing) fought off a stellar field to defend her national criterium crown. In a tremendous end to a captivating race, Wiasak launched her winning attack at the bottom of the final straight to stream past the peloton to take an emphatic victory.
A Mitchelton SCOTT trio of Amanda Spratt, Sarah Roy and Jessica Allen were the standout team throughout the race with a litany of attacks on the field, with Roy storming to the silver and Matilda Raynolds third.
Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Victorian Institute of Sport) finished in third overall to claim the under 23 national crown.
Rebecca Wiasak “A green and gold jersey is something money can’t buy… I was really excited it was a bunch sprint, I think everyone knew what my tactic was going to be, I was hoping it was going to be a bunchy”
“I was too scared to watch people screaming I heard my dad screaming like I’d already won, and I thought my legs could go at any moment and it was still 150 metres until the finish, so I didn’t want to salute until I crossed the line”
“There were some really strong teams represented so to come out again as an individual and win is just unbelievable and there were definitely some tears at the end of the race”
Under 23 Men’s Criterium
“I don’t know how we did that mate” were the first words to come out of Under 23 men’s champion, Jarrad Drizners’ (InForm TM-Insight MAKE) mouth to UCI World Track Champion gold medallist Kelland O’Brien (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast), who finished in second place.
Having broken away from the peloton mid-way through the 33-kilometre criterium, Drizners and O’Brien dug deep to lap the bunch with five laps remaining, allowing for a moment of rest before a stellar showdown that saw Drizners lead out O’Brien at the last corner, holding on for the win.
Last year’s winner, Cameron Scott (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast) claimed the bronze medal for his efforts in the bunch kick (after a sold ride that saw both his team and InForm TM Insight MAKE control the peloton) while Drizner’s top class ride also earned the gun the Altus Traffic Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
Jarrad Drizners: “My first national title feels amazing. It was really hot out there and a stacked field so it was awesome to pull off the win in a field like this. I wasn’t too sure if it would pay off or not, but Kell and I just committed one hundred percent and it did pay off”
Under 19 Men’s criterium
In a dramatic performance that saw crashes both at the last corner and after the finish line, it was local up-and-comer Jesse Norton (Ballarat / Sebastopol CC) who claimed victory on home turf.
In what looked like a breakaway that was going to stick, South Coast CC teammates Angus Miller and Lewis Walker worked together off the front before Norton made his attack with two laps to go. Miller managed to earn himself the Altus Traffic Most Aggressive Rider jersey even though he came down hard in a crash coming into the final corner.
Outriding a peloton that had been torn to pieces in the dying moments, Graeme Frislie (Brunswick Cycling Club) took silver and Rohan Haydon-Smith (St George CC) bronze.
Jesse Norton: “I was definitely excited coming into the hometown race. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself being quite young in the under 19 category, but just wanted to have a crack on the home streets and it was pretty special to get the green and gold.”
Under 19 Women’s Criterium
Hot, windy, and unforgiving; it was the under 19 women who kicked off the Fed Uni Road Nationals in the heart of Ballarat.
A competitive, early-formed front bunch comprised of Ashlee Jones (Carnegie Caulfield CC), Hannah Seeliger (Kilkenny CC), Elizabeth Nuspan (Brunswick Cycling Club) and Francesca Sewell (Gold Coast Cycling Club) set the pace before Jones took the win in a sprint to the line.
Nuspan and Sewell rounded out the podium, with Sewell’s performance gaining her the Altus Traffic Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
Ashlee Jones: “It was pretty hot and dry out there. We were able to get a little group out early at the start in one of the first sprints, which was good as it stopped a bit of cat and mouse action. It was good fun with lots of spectators here so it’s good to win in Ballarat where all the big hitters are.”
Fixed Gear Criterium
Brunswick Cycling Club member and ex AFL player Hal Hunter (Hunter Bros Cycling) won the very first Fixed Gear National Championship at the 2019 FedUni Road Nationals.
15 men and three women took to the field on Sturt Street in Ballarat with no brakes and fixed gears for a chance to pull on the green and gold jersey.
Brunswick CC members Martin Hoggart & Ray Hunter (Hunter Bros Cycling) made it an all Brunswick podium.
The women’s fixed gear crit was won by Catalina Soto, with Eli Nuspan taking the national champions jersey and Emma Jackson rounding out the podium.
Hal Hunter: “It’s really exciting this format is starting to pick up here and hopefully this is a good showcase for anyone who wants to get rid of the gears and the brakes. It’s always interesting not really racing as a team but competing against each other. The course was challenging but I’m excited that it’s finally over and super excited to get the win.”
The champions for the 2019 FedUni Road Nationals Club Crits were decided in tough conditions, with St Kilda Cycling Club taking three of the titles on offer.
In the 180+ men’s category, Manly Warringah CC finished 1st ahead of Illawarra in 2nd while St Kilda edged out Hawthorn in a close finish for the women. Randwick won the 150+ and for the 120+ category, it was St Kilda coming out on top again.
Finally, in the 90+ category, the boys from St Kilda topped off a great day for their club with their win giving them three out of five category wins on the day.
St Kilda CC’s Cameron Hales “It’s fantastic to get the win, it was really hard in the heat, but all our riders did great, we just had to go as hard as we could. The hill into the breeze was a killer but we worked as a team (St Kilda CC) and got the win.”