Champion rider Gracie Elvin backed up to defend her women’s elite road race title at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships held in Buninyong, Ballarat.
The Orica-AIS rider equaled the performance of Kathy Watt (1992-1994) to finish ahead of Lauren Kitchen (Hi-Tec) and National Road Series champion Katrin Garfoot (Queensland Institute of Sport) to take her second consecutive career national title after 102km of racing around the demanding Buninyong course.
“I’ve been watching cycling for as long as I can remember, so it means a lot to me to really see my dreams come true,” said Elvin.
“I heard that (I could equal Kathy Watt), but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I guess I put a bit of pressure on myself without realising it, but I just had to trust myself once we started racing and trust my teammates.
“To wear the jersey over in Europe is a pretty big deal for us. We’re the only Australian pro-team, so it’s important for us.”
After being dropped on the final climb, Elvin and Kitchen recovered. Mean while teammates Amanda Spratt (NSW) and Shara Gillow (QLD) crested the climb in contact with the small group also containing Emily Roper (QLD), Tiffany Cromwell (SA) and Garfoot.
“I was holding on for dear life on that last climb, I just couldn’t do it,” said Elvin. “I was with Lauren and was thankful she dragged me back.
“I was shaking a bit before the start and I was trying to calm myself down, but I backed myself today. I knew I wasn’t one of the strongest girls there but I knew I was one of the smartest.
Earlier in the race, Lisa Jacobs (VIC) broke free from the peloton at the bottom of the second King of the Mountain climb, with the bunch content to allow her to achieve a maximum advantage of over three minutes.
After 45 kilometes, Bridie O’Donnell (VIC) tried her luck to bridge to Jacobs, however even with the help of ORICA-AIS’s Jessie Maclean (ACT), the pair were absorbed by the peloton with three laps remaining.
Elvin immediately launched a counter attack, catching a fading Jacobs inside the final 25 kilometres.
A last ditch effort by Miranda Griffiths (VIC) to join the pair went unrewarded before Cromwell (Specialized Lululemon) and Garfoot launched a perfectly timed attack to catch a powering Elvin with 15 kilometres remaining.
However the trio didn’t have enough in reserves to out-climb a desperate six-rider strong peloton, with the lead bunch catching the group with 10 kilometres remaining before the excitement of the final lap transpired.
I just want to say, thanks to my teammates, this jersey is for them. I wore my heart on my sleeve today and it paid off so I’m really happy.”