Australian Road National Championships 2013
Criterium - Kimberley Wells sprints to victory
Sturt St, Ballarat, 33kms
Kimberley Wells (Specialized Securitor) upstaged the professionals again and sprinted to victory ahead of Loren Rowney (Specialized Lululemon) and Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS).
With the main strength of the Orica-AIS squad missing due to fatigue from the efforts of the time trial yesterday, Specialized Securitor were able to control the race for favourite Wells. They did not get it all their own way. Rebecca Werner (Specialized Securitor), Jo Hogan (Jayco VIS), Lauren Kitchen (Wiggle Honda), Gracie Sultzberger (Jayco AIS), Loren Rowney (Specialized Lululemon) and Sarah Roy (Crino Cycles), even Wells herself was in an early attack to shake up the race.
It was Roy who managed the only major break of the race before the Specialized Securitor team led by Amy Bradley closed the gap with 10 laps to go.
Lauren Kitchen (Wiggle Honda) attacked as soon as Roy was caught. Queenslander, Emily Roper gave chase. With only 21 of the 31 starters left the pace was high. Taryn Heather (Jayco VIS) attacked down the back straight but Kate Finnegan (Specialized Securitor) was on watch to close the gap. The pair managed to created a small gap of 9 seconds before Elvin closed the gap with Sultzberger.
With 6 to go, Kitchen tried again to create the break but this time it was Hogan who closed the gap. Sensing the danger, Wells went with Hogan and they were joined by Peta Mullens (VIC), Elvin and Roper. Leonie Burford (WA) closed the gap and the bunch were all together at the bell.
With a 400m uphill sprint, Rowney and Well hit the front early for a drag race to the finish. With 50m to go, it looked like the race would be Rowney's. Wells was too strong and came past just before the line. Elvin crossed the line for third.
In the battle for the U23 honours, Emily Roper (QLD) finished four places ahead of Jessica Mundy (SA) and Janelle Crooks (QLD).
Kimberley Wells (Specialized Securitor) has jumped into the forefront of the media with a win in the Criterium championship. Wells played the perfect race, supported by the perfect team. "I am absolutely just stoked," said Wells. "I am a bit of a loss for words. The surges in that race were really quite hard. I was using a lot of energy out there. I had to be very careful. I just wanted to make sure I was there at the end of the race. I knew it was going to be a good old drag sprint and that is certainly what happened between myself and Loren Rowney today," added Wells.
In one of the early breaks that managed a small gap, Wells tried to give herself every opportunity to win the race, "This race has historically been won by a break away which isn't what I wanted. I like to be at the front of the race, so when people like Grace Sultzberger were attacking, she is a strong time trialer so I was never going to let them get away with one of the team on their wheel, " said Wells.
Loren Rowney (Specialized Lululemon) was on her own today like many of the riders. She rode an intelligent race, ensuring she was well positioned for all of the moves. "I am happy to get on the podium. I obviously wanted to get the win so I had to pick and choose what I did in the race," said Rowney.
A drag sprint was the last thing Rowney wanted, "Going into the race, I thought to myself don't let it be a drag race but that is how it worked out. I went a little too early and paid for it in the end. It was a great ride by Kimberley," added Rowney.
"This course is really tough, this is the first year the women's race has come down to a bunch kick and maybe that is because there wasn't the presence of Orica GreenEDGE. It was very stop start which made it hard," added Rowney.
Reflecting on the way the race panned out, Rowney added, "I was having a chat to Gracie [Elvin] and I think those of us who did the time trial yesterday found the first half of the race really hard. We did not have that 'punchy ness'. I was trying to warm up into the race and pick and choose when to go. Securitor had a strong team and they wanted to come here get a bunch kick and to win. It would have been good to get in a break but I was happy to take my chances at the end. I went just a little bit too soon and she got me on the line. I am so happy for Kimberley. She is a great rider, I know her quite well. She will be able to wear the jersey all year here in Australian this season which is really great,"
Rowney has just completed a training camp with her professional team Specialized Lululemon and was finding the excessive heat a bit tough last week. "It was a bit hard last week. The Gold Coast is so humid and then Victoria was dry heat. I am starting to feel better. I was really happy with my time trial yesterday. I don't really consider myself a time trialist. I was on track for a decent time but had a little tumble near the end and lost 30 seconds. My form is good so I am looking forward to the road race on Saturday. I think the new course is going to be just as hard as previous years. There is going to be some cross wind and a bit of gutter action so maybe it will suit riders like Gracie [Elvin] and myself." .
Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS) ensured she was in the right position at the right time but she just didn't have the kick in the end, "I came here to get a result, I was in a whole world of pain up to the line, I just had to keep pushing. So to come away with a medal is great," said Elvin
"I had a day to prepare for the fact that I would be out there on my own. I was excited to get in there and give it a crack. There were a few other riders out there on their own so I guess it was mostly fair,"
"Every other year has been a breakaway. I tried to give it a few goes but no one could get away. I decided to save myself for the final sprint. When the break did not go everyone was in there to fight for themselves. No one really knew how it was going to turn out. It was a different race and everyone gave it all," added Elvin
Elvin is looking forward to the road race, "I am a little tired after today but everyone is geared up for Saturday so hopefully we can come away with the gold again," said Elvin
Dave McPartland (Orica-AIS Team Director) reflected on Elvin's result and the lack of other team members starting the race. "Four riders who did the time trial yesterday have not backed up that well, or as well as expected for today. We are trying to keep them fresh for Saturday. The main goal is the road race on Saturday. Jessie McLean is sick so we are hoping she is going to be ok for Saturday. She is getting better. If she had raced today there is no way she would be ok for Saturday. We decided to be conservative today to try to ensure she will be fit," said McPartland.
Emily Roper (QLD) was very happy with her race and to come away with a jersey. She was active throughout, "I am very happy. It was pretty hard because there were so many goods riders and there was a race within a race for the U23 jersey. We had our own little race so to come away with a win is amazing. Coming into the finish I was boxed in and I thought to myself 'I have just got to get out'. I found a gap and managed to finish ahead of the others," said Roper.
Jessica Mundy (SA) had a goal to podium today and she achieved that. I wasn't a gold and green jersey but she was happy. "It was really hard coming out here today. I had not ridden the course before so it was great to race with senior women. My goal is the road race. I have been out on the course and feel it should be good for me," said Mundy.
Janelle Crooks (QLD-Pensar) was a very surprised bronze medallist, "I just wanted to finish so a podium is amazing," said Crooks.
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