Australian Road Championships 2012
Road Race - Amanda Spratt won the race of her career to take gold
Buninyong, Victoria 102 km, 13:30hrs
Amanda Spratt (GreenEDGE) completed a dream race to win the Green & Gold jersey for GreenEDGE. In the chase for silver, Tiffany Cromwell (GreenEDGE) did not want to miss out of the medal and came off the wheel of Rachel Neylan (Nutrixxion) with 200m go to and secured the medal. Neylan, who suffered a longitudinal non displaced fracture of her hip in the ITT Giro Donne in 2011 did not have the power to close the gap but settled for Bronze. Neylan has signed for a new team in 2012. Nutrixxion is a German based team. Neylan will ride along side Belinda Goss and Emma Mackie.
It took a while for the race to warm up the bunch went out hard for the first lap then settled. There were 78 starters for the 102km race and conditions were 22 degrees and overcast. The pace from the first lap caused a number of riders to fall out of contention. Rochelle Gilmore (BikeExchange) was out before hitting the hill for the second time.
With only two former winners in the race, Alexis Rhodes 2011 (GreenEDGE) and Carla Ryan 2009 (AA Drink) this years race was open. Katrin Garfoot (QLD) tried for attack the second time up Midland Highway but the peloton were not going to let her go anywhere. Jessie Maclean (GreenEDGE) was monitoring the front of the race and covering all of the moves. On the foot of Mount Buninyong for the second time, Cait Fraser Jones decided to attack. She sat 200m off the front of the controlled chase for one and a half laps before the race was all together. The rain started to fall slightly but it didn't last long.
2011 Criterium champion Lauren Kitchen (Rabobank) punctured at the bottom of the climb and tried hard to chase back. She managed to get back on with 52km to go but it had an impact on the 21 year old. With five laps to go, Grace Sulzberger (Jayco-AIS) tried to get away but she was immediately covered by Maclean. Jayco Bay Cycling Classic winner, Melissa Hoskins buried herself for the GreenEdge-AIS team, as did Rowena Fry with the aim of setting one of her team for the win. They covered every move. Taryn Heather (SAIS) and Laura Meadley (ACT) pushed the pace at the front and the bunch started to spilt. By the time the front of the race reached Mount Buninyong for the seventh time the splits really started.
Tiffany Cromwell (GreenEDGE) and Gracie Elvin (Jayco-AIS) attacked. They managed to get 15 m advantage before being joined by a group of 10 riders. Heather, Carlee Taylor (SA), Rowena Fry, Tiffany Cromwell, Alexis Rhodes, Amanda Spratt and Shara Gillow (GreenEDGE), Gracie Elvin (Jayco-AIS), Loren Rowney (Specialised Lululemon) and Jo Hogan (Jayco-VIS). This group were joined by a small group of chasers. Carla Ryan (AA Drink), Grace Sulzberger (Jayco-AIS), Sinead Noonan (Jayco-AIS), Peta Mullens (BikeExchange), Stephanie Ives (VIC), Lucy Coldwell VIC) and Miranda Griffiths (VIC).
This group worked well together and created a 50 second lead on the chasers. The eighth time up the climb, Spratt attacked. Hogan tried to give chase but could not stay with Spratt. She dropped back into the group. The pace of the chase caused another split in the group and left 14 chasers. Rowney, Coldwell, Mullens dropped off.
Spratt quickly increased her lead with the help of her GreenEDGE teammates. They showed extreme patience and experience to control the front of the race. With two laps to go Spratt held a 32 second lead. She increased this to 46 seconds on Midland Highway and it was 50 seconds at the turn to Mount Buninyong.
Heather and Griffiths tried to chase but did not have enough support. Ryan, Neylan and Elvin also tried to chase but again they could not close the gap. At the bell Spratt held a 1 minute 25 second lead. At the top of the final climb, Neylan attacked the chase group. Cromwell went with her and the pair managed to get a gap on the bunch. They worked together and closed the gap a little on Spratt. Sulzberger and Gillow also managed a small gap on the bunch but they were caught on the down hill section to Friskin Rd.
With 3km to go, Spratt held a 50 second lead. Spratt enjoyed a free run to the finish and celebrated all the way down the straight. 45 seconds behind, Tiffany Cromwell (GreenEDGE) did not want to miss out of the medal and came off the wheel of Rachel Neylan (Nutrixxion) with 200m go to and secured the medal.
In the bunch sprint, 2011 champion Alexis Rhodes sprinted ahead of Elvin 1 minute 30 seconds back. The only U23 to make the break and therefore win the U23 competition was Sinead Noonan (Jayco-AIS). She finished ahead of Rebecca Werner (SA) and mountain biker Rebecca Henderson (ACT).
Amanda Spratt (GreenEDGE-AIS) clasped her hands to her face as she approached the finish line in relisation that a long driven dream had come true, "I can't believe it still I have been working so hard for this," said Spratt, who has been the key domistique for Australia AIS team in Europe for the last 12 months and got her first major win at the Gracia Orlavia in 2011. Spratt started on the track and won the 2004 junior points race world championship. "My family were here at finish line that was really special, I am so happy to have my family here to experience this with me."
"I knew I had good form coming in, but here you also need luck on your side in this race," said Spratt who claimed her first UCI victory in 2011 winning the overall classification at the Gracia Orlavia in the Czech Rebublic. "When I went on the top of the climb, I got a gap straight away which kept growing, but I actually thought I was a little bit early, but I knew I had two strong team mates with me if it did come back together,"added Spratt
"I had the team car coming up and giving me the time gaps, but I didn't let myself think it was going to happen until probably the last kilometre.
Spratt has had a tough couple of years but she fought back, "I have had a couple of years out with a couple of niggles, but I am back in force and this is the biggest result I have had,
"The last two years now I have been able to get consistent racing, consistent training and finally step up the level I want to be at.There is still a lot of hard work to do to keep moving forward, but it is all going well," Spratt added.
Spratt was quick to praise her new team mates,"I can't thank my teammates enough, we had a great team out there, they were looking after me all day and one of us won," said Spratt. "This is the great thing about this team, everyone backs each other up." " Spratt said.
Looking to the coming season Spratt is excited about the International riders joining the team next week, "They arrive next week, it is going to be great. I am looking forward to this season and being able to learn from some of the best riders in the world," added Spratt.
Tiffany Cromwell (GreenEDGE-AIS) did not want to let the silver go, "It was our race to lose today, with our numbers, but there were so many strong riders out there today you can never write off," Cromwell said. "We just had to be smart out there today and not play our cards too early. And we did just that, we set up the race and believed in each others ability and it worked to perfection. To be able to stay with Rachel and take the sprint for a one-two finish for GreenEDGE, well I couldn't have asked for anything better really," she added.
Rachel Neylan (Nutrixxion) was racing her first major race July 2010. She praised her opponents after receiving her Bronze medal, "Full credit to Amanda on the win, she timed her attack brilliantly," said Neylan. "Tiffany played it tactically better than me, I am disappointed I didn't get the silver but happy with the bronze medal."added Neylan
Sinead Noonan (Jayco-AIS) was thrilled with her win in her first ride as a member of Jayco-AIS team. She has had a great week of racing in Geelong and new she had good form coming into the race today, "It is pretty overwhelming, but feels pretty good," said Noonan, 19. "Last year I was second to my (then) teammate Carlee Taylor, and I also finished in one of the chasing bunches, so to finish in the main field this time is pretty exciting. My team car came past and told me I was the only under 23 rider left in the main field and I knew I would have to try and hang on and stay in there, which I did and I couldn't be happier," she said.
Rebecca Werner (SA) was pleased with her ride. "It was difficult out there today. But I am very happy with my Silver medal," said Werner
Rebecca Henderson (ACT) was very happy with her form and the overall race, "I really enjoyed the race today. To come away with a medal. My focus is really the mountain bike at the Olympics in London. To be in this form in January is great, " said Henderson.
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