The racing action kicked off in Lorne, with the hilly criterium including a steep climb that ensured there would be little chance of respite for the peloton.
Both races started out hard, with the fields reduced rapidly as riders feel off the back with the pace hot up front.
In both cases, the hot start was the catalyst for a solo move to go away. Rebecca Wiasak was the one to go off the front in the women's after some skirmishing with Lucy Bechtel (Specialized Womens Racing). She extended her advantage as she drove the pace up the 'Wall', managing to save energy on the more technical sections, as the group behind struggled to catch the two-time individual pursuit world champion.
Recently returned from European success, Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dream Team), looked the most comfortable of the chase group, though with her teammate up the road, she was sitting on and not contributing to the chase. With Wiasak's gap up to 40 seconds and only a few laps remaining, Kennedy made a bid to leave her erstwhile companions behind.
She did so and even almost managed to bridge over the gap to Wiasak, though it was the solo escapee that took the win by three seconds over her teammate, with 35 seconds back to the chase group.
In the men's, NSWIS's Liam Magennis provided a herculean effort from the start to string the race by setting a searing tempo on the front. Well-positioned at the front of the peloton were the NRS-leading Isowhey Sports-Swisswellness squad and Magennis' NSWIS teammates. The back of the race was a scene of carnage, as the 100-rider field rapidly got whittled down to a group of barely over 25 athletes.
An the first intermediate sprint, Ryan Cavanagh used the lull after the sprint to launch an attack, quickly obtaining a gap of 20 seconds. The Queenslander had to fight hard from there, he had over 40 minutes of riding left riding by himself.
The chasing group initially fought hard, but as the gap continued to creep up, it was clear that Cavanagh would be the one to take the win and the chase group was fighting for the minor places.
In the end, Cavanagh nearly lapped the entire field, taking out the win by a minute and 18 seconds and giving himself an almost unassailable lead going into the Stage 2 road race that would also be tackled by the Gran Fondo riders.
High5 Dream Team had the advantage going into Stage 2 in the womens and used their numbers to their benefit as Jessica Pratt made the early break with Kate Perry, allowing overnight leader Wiasak and teammate Lucy Kennedy to control the race from the peloton.
After establishing a break of over two minutes, the duo of Pratt and Perry pushed on, but it wasn’t to be, as the pair were caught on the Skenes Creek descent. This set up a fast and furious final 30 kilometres as the peloton powered towards Lorne.
Kennedy attacked inside the final five kilometres, but was brought back, setting the stage for Wiasak to storm through and take her second stage win in two days, and seal the General Classification win for the second year in succession.
Following her home were Sharlotte Lucas (Roxsolt-Attaquer) and Macey Stewart (TIS Racing), with Lucas also claiming third on GC behind the High5 pair.
‘It was a dream weekend, winning both stages and the overall for the second year," said Wiasak. "I have some really special memories from Lorne. It's almost like a home Tour for me coming from Geelong. I had my Dad come out to watch the Crit last night and my fiancee Ben (Hill) was racing in the men's NRS event so it's nice to have family support.
The Amy's Otway Tour is run alongside Amy's Gran Fondo, all in memory of the passing of Amy Gillet and as a fundraiser for the Amy Gillet Foundation, which aims to improve the safety conditions for cyclists on Australian roads.
‘This is the third consecutive year the High5 Dream Team has won the overall," said Wiasak. "I've been a part of all three and the team was incredible again today to help me take a second win and the individual classification. The team did a stellar job with only four riders, and two being protected, so Jess and Ruby were impressive in controlling the race.
"Jess took some pressure off me today, following a move early on the first climb which stayed away for half the race, and Ruby did a killer lead-out taking me to 200m from the line. It was a special win knowing the team had all contributed, and to top it off I got to share the podium with Lucy who retained her second overall."
The men's race was a similarly controlled affair, after a hard pace and a number of attacks up the initial climb, the race settled down and NSWIS took control for their race leader.
A break went away without anyone dangerous on GC present in the move. Sam Hill (Phoenix Cycle Collective), Liam White (Drapac-Pat's Veg) and Dylan McKenna (AMR Renault) went clear and fought hard, only to be brought back with 40 kilometres remaining in the race.
There were a number of attacks in the final kilometres, but with NSWIS and Isowhey Sports-SwissWellness setting the race up for a sprint finish, it was always going to be tough to make a move stick. The bunch sprint was won by Michael Freiburg (Isowhey Sports-Swiss Wellness), continuing his recent superb form, ahead of teammate Sam Crome and Nick White (Oliver's Real Food Racing).
Ryan Cavanagh was understandably very happy following his maiden NRS victory and the manner in which he took out the overall.
"I had a word to Cromey (Sam Crome, IsoWhey Sports) to see if he wanted to come along, but I didn't get a response," said Cavanagh. "Then when I went clear, I thought, ok another 40 minutes plus three leaps of this, will I be able to keep it up? But I worked out the course and where you can save energy, I railed the corners every time and I was able to make the most of them messing around behind me. Once it (the gap) was out to a minute, I knew I had it won."
Cavanagh then paid tributes to his NSWIS teammates and their efforts defending his race lead during Stage 2.
"After everyone went hard up the first climb, I felt we had it in hand from then on. That early climb was just so fast and it was worth getting the draft so that made so most people could ride at threshold for 20 minutes and get over it."
"It's really great to have a guy like Stu Shaw (former NRS champion and professional rider) in the team, he's great at organising the team on the road and letting you see the way to do things. We're not at the level of IsoWhey Sports, you look at their squad and they absolutely deserve to be called the best in Australia, but we've got a bunch of strong guys who really put in for each other. I'm not sure we'll get as much freedom in the next few races though."
The race wasn't just a breakthrough for the winners, with Van D'am Racing breaking through for their best result with Ben Andrews in the top 10 for Stage 1. They produced perhaps the best effort in terms of social media coverage as well.
The National Road Series will continue with the Battle Recharge, which returns in the later date of Saturday 23 September, after the race was initially postponed due to the impact of Cyclone Debbie.