An impressive fifth-place finish in the elite and U23 women’s criterium national championship has delivered Keely Bennett (Team BridgeLane) a deserved green and gold jersey in Ballarat.
Bennett was active throughout the 30-lap, 33km criterium on Sturt St, slipping into an early move with U23 time trial champion Ella Simpson (ARA Skip Capital), Mia Hayden, 2023 elite criterium champion Amber Pate (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Team BridgeLane teammate Haylee Fuller.
After being reeled back in by the peloton, Bennett’s teammate Gina Ricardo jumped up the road with eventual elite winner Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco), allowing the 21-year-old to sit in and conserve energy in the main bunch.
When the pace was turned to maximum on the final lap, Bennett was in the right spot to sprint home as the first U23 woman behind four WorldTour riders in Roseman-Gannon, Georgia Baker, Alexandra Manly (all Liv AlUla Jayco) and Sarah Roy (Cofidis).
“I’m pretty psyched about that one,” Bennett said.
“It’s taken me three years to get on the top step.
“Amazing feeling – hopefully it’s just the start of a really good, successful weekend.
“We were pretty happy to have Gina up the road, we back her 100 per cent in an early break, that’s her specialty.
“We had no idea we were going to catch her on the line.
“Once we came around the last corner, we could see her in our sights, and it just so happened we caught her in the sprint but we’re happy either way with the result for the team.”
First-year U23 Keira Will (ARA Skip Capital) finished with a strong 8th place finish to grab silver in the U23 women, followed by another impressive 2024 RoadNats performance from climber Neve Bradbury (Canyon//SRAM), finishing ninth and grabbing her second bronze medal of the week.
Nicole Duncan delivers on expectations in junior women’s criterium championship
Earlier in the day, Team BridgeLane’s Nicole Duncan added a junior criterium national championship to her growing palmarès.
The 17-year-old junior scratch race world champion on the track backed her powerful sprint to do the job up Sturt St and was right to do so, winning comfortably ahead of Anna Dubier in second and Scarlett Sibbel in third.
“I knew the girls that I was coming in with, that they weren’t strong enough to go away with an attack,” Duncan said.
“I knew I was going to be strong enough to go with an attack if there was one that happened, but I was pretty confident with my sprint, and I knew it was going to stay as a bunch sprint.”
U23 Women Criterium
Keely BENNETT (Team BridgeLane)
Keira WILL (ARA Skip Capital)
Neve BRADBURY (Canyon//SRAM)
Junior Women Criterium
Nicole DUNCAN (Team BridgeLane)
Anna DUBIER (Lidcombe Auburn CC)
Scarlett SIBBEL (X-Speed Australia CC)