Orica-AIS new recruit Gracie Elvin (ACT) has claimed the women’s road race at the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships, Where Legends Are Made.
24-year-old Elvin claimed the title after a gutsy solo effort to bridge a gap to a group of four riders moments before the bell lap, clinching the win from Joanne Hogan (VIC) and 2009 national champion Carla Ryan (QLD).
“It’s a dream to win the national jersey,” said a shocked Elvin. “I’m in disbelief, I am shaking.
“It wasn’t the result we were expecting, but it’s still a great outcome,” said Elvin, speaking about her talent-packed Orica-AIS team boasting defending champion Amanda Spratt and triple time trial national champion Shara Gillow.
76 riders started the 106.6km race, with pre-race predictions made difficult due to widespread changes to the road course.
A newly introduced flatter, 29.2km circuit would be covered twice by the field, before riders would tackle the infamous Mt Buninyong 10.2km circuit a further five times.
A break of four riders established a break within the first lap including Victorians Lucy Coldwell and Lisa Jacobs, Canberra’s Jessie Maclean and South Australia’s Rebecca Werner.
The group worked together to gain a maximum advantage in excess of three minutes as the riders hit the first of five laps of the treacherous circuit.
It was here that Coldwell and Maclean attacked up the climb with four laps to go, with time trial silver medalist Grace Sulzberger (TAS) worked hard to bring the gap back, cutting the quartets lead to 40 seconds with 30 kilometres remaining.
With two laps to go and the climbs beginning to take their toll on the thinning peloton which had been reduced to just 18 riders, Ryan, Hogan and Miranda Griffiths (VIC) made their move, quickly gaining 37 seconds.
Realising the danger, Elvin launched a solo attack which was left unanswered.
“I tried not to do too much work at the front because I wasn’t up to the climbing abilities of the other girls such as Carla and Jo, so I looked after myself and made sure we stayed away,” said Elvin, who signed with Orica-AIS for 2013 after serving an apprenticeship with the Jayco-AIS team, where she earned an Oceania road race title.
“With two laps to go on the hill, I just thought, ‘oh well, here we go, let’s see how far I can get’, I’m just happy I made it to the break and was able to hold the girls out in the sprint,” the former mountain biker said.
Silver medallist Hogan said she was happy that the Jayco-VIS team tactics had been executed.
“The plan was to have someone in an early break, and we did that with Lisa,” Hogan explained. “I just tried to get into the right position and protect myself, because I knew I’d have to attack later up the climb.
“I was concerned when Gracie came across because I know she has a big kick, I backed off and went late in the sprint but she was just a bit too strong.”
Bronze medallist Ryan said she could not have out-sprinted Elvin.
“I backed myself in the group until Gracie came across,” Ryan said. “I knew I could beat the other two girls in a final sprint and I was feeling alright, but when Gracie came across it definitely made things tough.
“I’m disappointed, I would have loved to have worn that jersey again but it’s a credit to Gracie , she rode an awesome race,” said the 27-year-old.