• Chris Hamilton won the under 23 championship by the narrowest of margins (Kathryn Watt)Source: Kathryn Watt
Chris Hamilton (Avanti IsoWhey Sports) won the Mars Cycling Australia under 23 national championship in a tight sprint finish.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
9 Jan 2016 - 6:51 PM  UPDATED 9 Jan 2016 - 10:09 PM

The unrelated Lucas Hamilton (Jayco/John West/VIS) was the protagonist and finished second despite splitting the race to pieces with a series of attacks up Mt Buninyong.

Miles Scotson (SASI/Callidus), the defending champion, led a small group home to take the bronze medal on the day, and his second medal of the championships.

“It’s pretty surreal, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Hamilton said. Winning the Under 23s Criterium last year, no one was expecting that, I certainly wasn’t and today, to come out with another jersey, it’s unbelievable.”

“I was feeling pretty good, obviously Lucas, Miles and Callum were the strongest. Everyone was attacking each other over the last three climbs.

“I felt pretty good, I didn’t do any attacking myself, and Lucas and I over the last couple dug in a bit on the climb, managed to bring back the leader and took it from there.

“I was a bit worried about Miles Scotson dragging Alistair Donohoe back onto us, but we worked well together into the finish.”

With a national title on the line, places in the UniSA squad for the Tour Down Under up for grabs and with national selectors watching on keenly, the under 23 national road title is an important race for those riders looking to get themselves noticed.

Scotson was on the start line to defend his title despite hinting that he was going to be required to do team pursuit practice for the Track World Cup in Hong Kong next weekend.

The 10.2 kilometre circuit around Buninyong with its ascent of Mt Buninyong would again be the decisive factor with a slight tailwind up the climb to favour the pure climbers amongst the group.

The initial move went almost straight away on the first lap, with Jason Lea (Physiohealth Focus Cycling) and Rylee Field (GPM Stulz) gaining a big gap quickly, as the main bunch was happy to let them go.

The two appeared to be working well together, but the big surprise was that Lea, considered an outside chance for the race, had opted to go in the break. It was little surprise then that he eventually opted to drop off, leaving Field on his own off the front, with almost the entire race to go.

Jesse Ewart (GPM Stulz) and Reece Tucknott trying a move for a few laps and making little headway before returning to the peloton. This provoked a counterattack from Chris Harper (State of Matter/MAAP) and Zane Hunter forming the move, with the peloton sitting up and letting them go on the seventh lap of the course.

Harper quickly dropped Hunter and continued across to the brave Field, promptly passing him to become the lead rider on the road. Field faded back to the peloton, with the consolation of winning the KOM and sprint prizes.

A counterattack then came from Cyrus Monk (Pat’s Veg Cycling) and Alex Morgan (Jayco/John West/VIS), cooperating well to create a gap in an attempt to escape the other contenders.

With five laps to go, the Subaru NSWIS team decided that now was the time to make it hard, and the peloton started to splinter as they went up Mt Buninyong. But Harper refused to be shut down, continuing to set a hard pace off the front, going through the start/finish with 41km remaining and a three minute and 17 second advantage over the main field.

The peloton continued to chase hard, led by Jayco/John West/VIS and SASI/Callidus as they looked to get their contenders, Lucas Hamilton and Scotson into position to go for the win.

This reduced the group further, with only 13 riders making it over the top of Mt Buninyong in the second group on the road. Chris Harper continued to battle out front, with the gap was coming down gradually.

With 30km remaining, Scotson decided to take matters into his own hands, and he set off in pursuit of the lone leader, with Angus Lyons (VIS) chasing hard behind to limit the strong time triallist’s advantage before he got to the climb.

As Lyons pulled off the front, Lucas Hamilton attacked hard, and bridged over Scotson before he was joined by five others, including Chris Hamilton, Ben O’Connor (Avanti IsoWhey), Alistair Donohoe, Jai Hindley (both Attaque Team Gusto) and Callum Scotson (SASI/Callidus). They group made inroads into Harper’s advantage, and he was back to a two minute advantage for the beginning of the penultimate lap.

On the climb, Lucas Hamilton attacked again, with only Chris Hamilton able to follow and they gapped their former companions and struck off alone, but their advantage was dragged back on the flat by a combination of Attaque Team Gusto and Miles Sctoson. Together again as they began the final lap the group was still 51 seconds behind the bold escapee Harper, with 10km remaining.

Lucas Hamilton attacked again on Mt Buninyong, his third major attack of the race, with a dogged Chris Hamilton hanging onto his wheel, and cresting the climb with his namesake, catching Harper just before the summit of the climb, and immediately dropping the rider who had been riding by himself for the best part of 50km.

The gap at the top of the climb was 30 seconds, with Harper fading back to the chasing Scotson/Donohoe group. It was reduced to 15 seconds by the final kilometre, but it was clear that the race would decided between the two unrelated Hamiltons in a sprint.

Under the one kilometre to go banner, it was Lucas Hamilton in front, but he swung to the side of the road downwind, forcing Chris Hamilton to come past him and lead the sprint out. A clever move, but it didn’t pay off, as Chris Hamilton proved too fast, with Lucas Hamilton losing by half a bike length as he tried to pass.

“It’s a bit bittersweet, you’re always really happy to pull off a podium, but to come so close, it’s a bit disappointing but I’m happy to get a result,” said the man in second place.

“The plan was always to go with three laps to go and start putting the hurt on everyone. But Miles went a lap before, and that was a bit early for me. On the last lap I didn’t have the bikkies I would have liked, but Chris was in the same situation, and full credit to him it was a good ride.

“I needed to get rid of him on the last climb. It was a bit unlucky that I had to lead it out, but I don’t think it would have changed anything.”