Despite being hit by a car yesterday, Fergus Browning (Trinity Racing) has won a thrilling under-23 men’s road race national title in Ballarat today.
Browning defeated Matthew Greenwood (Team BridgeLane) in a two-up sprint, but only after bridging across to him on the final climb of Mt Buninyong.
His decisive move came near the end of an action-packed race that saw groups of rider spread all across the Buninyong circuit.
A large field of 102 riders started the 139-kilometre, 12-lap race around Buninyong. Hamish McKenzie and Cameron Rogers were among those who did not start, reportedly due to illness.
The first half of the race was characterised by a breakaway of John Carter (X-Speed Australia CC), Adam Maccan (Midland CC) and Matthew Fox (South Coast CC).
Around the halfway mark, the race shifted into its next phase as the two big teams, BridgeLane and ARA Skip Capital, sent riders on the attack.
First, Greenwood and Tyler Tomkinson (ARA Skip Capital) bridged to the front of the race, then time trial national champion Jackson Medway (Team BridgeLane).
Behind, groups were constantly attacking out of the peloton, knowing the major teams were represented ahead.
With just over three laps to go, Greenwood attacked from the front group, becoming the sole leader on the road.
The chasers behind coalesced into a group of 10 contenders, including Oscar Chamberlain (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), several riders from ARA Skip Capital, Browning and Medway.
Their deficit with two laps to go was 42 seconds and, working together (bar Medway), shrunk the gap to 25 seconds at the bell.
On the last ascent of Mt Buninyong, Browning attacked and swiftly bridged across to Greenwood.
The latter did well to stay with Browning over the top before contributing to the pace to keep the chasers at bay and bring the race to a one-on-one sprint in Buninyong.
In the final straight, the pair watched each other until Browning launched from the front, immediately distanced his rival and comfortably sailed across the line, arms aloft, to celebrate an incredible comeback from hitting the tarmac on Friday to reaching the top of the podium on Saturday.
“I was out in my pre-race ride out in Melbourne and unfortunately got knocked off by a car,” Browning explained.
“Yesterday was just crazy, running around to physios, getting my shoulder taped and fixing my bike, but I knew I’d done the work and knew I wasn’t too bad, and I just wanted to give it my all.
“All the pain went away when I started riding.”
On winning the green-and-gold jersey of Australian champion, Browning said, “It’s just crazy to be able to maybe represent this in Europe and maybe some of the under-23 races coming up, never thought I’d be able to do that.
“To be on the list of people that have won this race before is just crazy. I knew it was the last year in Buninyong for a while, I knew this course really suited me, and I’m just stoked to pull it off.”
Silver medallist Greenwood didn't die wondering in his efforts to win solo and said he was still happy despite coming so close to a national title.
“Obviously I would’ve like to have won but I did everything I could and I'm pretty happy to come second still,” he said.
“That was my move to try and win the race and unfortunately it didn’t quote pan out, but I could not let this wheel go. I just had to hold on, no matter how much it hurt.
“I haven’t actually sprinted against Ferg before, so I thought if I put him on the front, and said Jackson was coming, that it would be my best chance to try and beat him but unfortunately he was just better in the sprint.”
An impressive Fox sprinted home for the bronze medal after being in the first breakaway move of the day.
U23 Men Road Race
Fergus BROWNING (Trinity Racing) 3h34:07
Matthew GREENWOOD (Team BridgeLane) +0
Matthew FOX (South Coast CC) +35
Oscar CHAMBERLAIN (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) +35
Declan TREZISE (ARA Skip Capital) +35
Joshua LUDMAN (Saint Piran USKIS) +35
Jackson MEDWAY (Team BridgeLane) +35
Tyler TOMKINSON (ARA Skip Capital) +39
William EAVES (ARA Skip Capital) +43
James DERRICK (Ljubljana Gusto Santic) +3:34