With her victory in the women's sprint final, Victorian Caitlin Ward joined the illustrious likes of Anna Meares, Steph Morton and the woman she bested, Kaarle McCulloch, on the sprint queen honour roll.
To Ward, who looked upon these women with deference, achieving such a dream almost left her speechless.
"I remember when I started riding bikes Kaarle and Anna were just beyond my heroes," she explained.
"So to line up in the sprints with them and now be on the same honour roll is amazing. I don't even have any words to describe it, I'm ecstatic."
Ward notched the fastest time in qualifying (10.997) and knocked out Felice Beitzel (ACT) and fellow Victorian Madison Janssen on her dream run into the final, where she needed just two heats against McCulloch, although the final heat required a photo finish.
“I was super nervous going into tonight, I’ve raced Kaarle a fair few times and last year I beat her in the semi’s so I knew it wasn’t impossible,” explained Ward who won sprint silver in 2018 and bronze 2014. “I knew I had to back myself and I just kept telling myself I can do this.
“After I crossed the line in the first heat, I couldn’t really believe it, and then in the second heat, it was just so close. When we were rolling around the back straight, I heard Kaarle say ‘You’re the Aussie champ’ and I just couldn’t believe it, I’m totally over the moon.”
World championship winning team pursuit colleagues Amy Cure, Georgia Baker and Ashlee Ankudinoff faced off for an exciting final sprint in the women's 10km scratch race. Cure held off late surges from the pair to take her third title in the event.
"I was happy to cross the line first but I wasn’t sure how I was going to go as I’ve been a bit sick so I’m really happy with my performance tonight,” the Tasmanian said.
In the men's 15km scratch race, Kelland O'Brien (VIC) was too strong for rainbow jersey wearing Sam Welsford (WA).
"It was a super hectic race, it’s such an iconic race at the national titles and it’s usually raced really hard, tonight it was done a bit differently to how I've seen it raced in the past so it was a bit of a shock to the system but I’m so happy to take the win,” O'Brien said.
Meanwhile, the elite men's TT saw last year's junior world champion Thomas Cornish take a step up to the senior level with a maiden Australian title in the one kilometre TT.
“It feels great to win the elite jersey," the New South Wales rider said. "Coming off juniors and being the current junior world champion there was a bit of pressure behind me so it’s always good to back up the expectation and have a win,” the member of the Australian Cycling Team Podium Potential Academy said.
“The PPA has been really good, I went into the program in November last year and the way they have been training me has been great, we have been specializing in some time trial work which enabled me to come here and do my best.”
Ward backed up her sprint title by claiming the keirin crown on the final day of racing. She headed to the front with three laps to go in the final , holding off Madison Janssen (VIC) and Breanna Hargrave (SA) across the line.
“That was amazing, the keirin has always been my favourite event and I was pretty devastated last year to crash out of it,” said Ward. “It was really nice to redeem myself this year and come out and not only win it but win it with a really dominant performance.”
The men's keirin brought the drama as South Australian Thomas Clarke stormed to a maiden national title. But commissaires deemed he gained an advantage on the track apron, elevating Clarke's team mate James Brister to the win. Following a review, commissaires downgraded the penalty, the title finally Clarke's.
“I think that was probably the most stressed I have ever been after that race, I knew it was going to be tight, there were a lot of decisive moves made,” said Clarke. And at the time nothing that I did was intentional to break the rules.
“I came across the line comfortable I had got the job done properly, and I couldn’t help but be upset when I was relegated. Then when it was reversed, I am just so over the moon, I don’t know what to say, it has been pretty crazy.”
In a star-studded women's 25km points race, Ankudinoff defeated dual defending champion Cure this time, the title coming down to the final sprint. With 30 laps to go, Annette Edmondson (SA) tried her luck and attacked but Cure followed, adding a lap to her commanding lead. But Ankudinoff responded taking a lap of her own cutting down the Tasmanian's lead to just four points by the final drag race to the finish line.
“I knew it would be tough given last night’s scratch race was bloody tough,” said Ankudinoff. “It was a world-class field, I took an early lap and just hoped that it paid off as I didn’t know what I would have in the last twenty laps as that is when you can lose a bike race."
South Australian Josh Harrison won the men's 40km point race outracing defending champion Kelland O'Brien and Victorian youngster Luke Plapp.
Visit the Cycling Australia website for full reports and results.