ORICA-AIS’ Amanda Spratt (NSW) claimed her second Australian road title, edging 2010 champion Ruth Corset (QLD) in a thrilling end to the 102km women’s race at the 2016 MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships in Buninyong.
Spratt, who claimed the title in 2012, showed her speed and tactics in the closing stages of the race, jumping early and distancing Corset in the final few hundred metres to claim a second green and gold jersey.
In a three up sprint just metres behind for bronze, ORICA-AIS’ Rachel Neylan (NSW) showed her experience to climb on to the podium for the second year in a row.
“The first one was probably a little bit more unexpected, this time I came in knowing that my form was really good,” said Spratt of her second national title.
“Having Sarah Roy out there in that early break was great for us,” she explained. “It was a great situation and it meant we could not panic, sit in there and relax and certainly had the other teams wondering what we were going to do. Once we started making those moves it really meant business.
“Getting across to Sarah was great, she was cramping, she was absolutely done but she just said, “What can I do, What do I do?” she just gave me every last bit of energy she had and I knew that it was up to me to finish it off.
It was a relaxed pace from the start with the peloton remaining together for the opening two of 10 laps. The first attack came from Justine Barrow (VIC) who was able to build an advantage of 30 seconds before being absorbed by the bunch as the pace increased.
Heading in to six laps to go, New South Wales pair Sarah Roy and Louisa Lobigs formed what would be the main move of the day and quickly built up a lead of one minute. The gap gradually extended to just under three minutes at the half way point of the race and continued to hold at that level.
As the race entered the final 25 kilometres the action really kicked off, with Corset and Spratt attacking heading into the penultimate lap.
As the chasers crossed the finish line with two laps remaining the advantage of Roy and Lobigs was down to one minute and ten seconds on the two chasers, with former criterium champion Kimberley Wells bridging across, and under two minutes to the peloton.
Roy and Lobigs’ time out front under the hot sun started to take its toll, with Spratt, Corset and Wells joining them in the lead. Starting the final lap the five riders held a touch and go advantage of 42 seconds on a much-reduced peloton.
On reaching the final climb Spratt and Corset took the opportunity to distance the faster finishers and continue on solo. With the remaining riders caught a flurry of attacks set off from the peloton with three former road race medallists Katrin Garfoot, Rachel Neylan and Lauren Kitchen taking one last opportunity to go across.
With Spratt having teammates in the move behind, Corset was forced to do much of the work at the front with Spratt reluctant to contribute as the chasers closed in.
“I think we didn’t have too much communication in the final laps, once I was away. I just spoke to Sarah and told her that I was confident that I could finish it off for the team so she certainly knew that,” Spratt explained.
“I know Ruth’s actually strong sprinter so I had to be really really smart in the way I won that sprint.
“It’s just numerical advantage I knew I had Green Edge behind me if it did come back together so I could play that card a little bit but I was feeling really strong out there and I know in a really hard tough race I can actually sprint really well.”
Entering the final kilometre the visibly closing gap was down to just 16 seconds with the three frantically chasing to make it across.
Coming from second wheel Spratt opened her sprint, taking an immediate advantage and holding it to the line to claim gold.
“I was trying to be patient, trying to be patient, trying to be patient and I think I still went with about 300 to go,” added Spratt. “It’s one of those finish straights were you can see the finish from so far out and you know it’s an Australian Championship.
“Ruth is quite punchy so that was my aim to make it a bit more of a drag race so I could just keep getting faster and faster and I think, getting the jump on her was what allowed me to win the sprint.”
Behind Neylan claimed the bronze medal outsprinting Katrin Garfoot (QLD) and Lauren Kitchen (NSW).
It was an emotional result for bronze medallist Neylan whose father passed away late last year.
“I’ve had to dig really deep to be able to stay away from my family and going through looking someone so close to you is such a big process in your life.
“I think someone from up above was looking out for me today. It’s been a big adjustment process but today it’s been so special. This ones for dad.”
The battle for the first ever under 23 women’s road race jersey played out in the main peloton with Jenelle Crooks (QLD) edging 2016 criterium national champion Jessica Mundy (SA) with Ellen Skerritt (QLD) rounding out the podium.
Article and image courtesy of Cycling Australia