• Jarrad Drizners staged a stunning late fightback to claim the Under 23 men's road race at Buninyong (Cycling Australia)Source: Cycling Australia
The Under 23 men's road race is the jewel in the crown of many young riders' careers, many going on to bigger and better things later on, but that win being a cornerstone of that success. Looking through the past years of the race, more winners than not have gone on to race the WorldTour.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

6 Feb 2021 - 1:02 AM 

The racing is regularly hotly contested, with different sizes of teams created an unbalanced, but compelling dynamic to the racing. For instance, this year, Inform TMX MAKE has 11 riders, the next biggest team has six.

The 139.2km course takes in 12 Laps of the Mt Buninyong circuit, a course that has mostly produced wins for solo riders and small groups of two and three that form over the top of Mt Buninyong.

You have to be able to climb really well, and often the winners are already some of the best riders on the domestic scene, or have already attracted overseas attention and are riding with international teams.

Drizners' massive summer goes green and gold
A month after signing his first professional contract with US-based Hagens Berman Axeon, Jarrad Drizners has won a second under-23 national title.
Monk thrives in heat for first national title
Initially furious that organisers cut the event distance, Cyrus Monk won the under-23 Australian road race championship with a daring solo move.

The Mt Buninyong course is well-known within the Australian cycling community, a three-kilometre climb that has ramps of up to 10 per cent, but is mostly difficult due to the repeated efforts round and round the course over the race.

The wind up Mt Buninyong is normally a decisive factor. A tailwind on the steep, second section of the climb puts the race in favour of the climbers and breakaway artists. A headwind plays into the hands of sprinters and heavier riders who gain that extra benefit from hiding in the group behind the slowed-down climbers.  

The wind is set to be a north-westerly, switching to a westerly around the time of the race, it's looking like a crosswind that will shift to a tailwind for the majority of the climb.

The Contenders

Inform TMX MAKE are the team to watch, coming off an already stellar national championships. They probably could have packed up and gone home after the time trials, but they'll want more. Carter Turnbull springs to mind after his powerhouse win in the time trial. He can also climb and has shown in the past that he cna handle longer road race distances.

Rudy Porter is the other main hope to highlight from the Inform TMX MAKE squad, his ninth on the general classification at the Herald Sun Tour last year probably went a bit under the radar last year with the performances of other Aussies ahead of him, but it was a superb ride in its own right. He'll be in the mix, perhaps the favourite, but it depends how Inform will ride the race.

Zac Johnson was once touted by Richie Porte as a big talent, but hasn't really put it together on the road as of yet, if Inform can put him in a break and just let him use his prodigious power, then it could be a boilover for the Tasmanian.

Inform have the quality on their roster to win through a break or a sit and wait strategy, it will be interesting to see how they employ their numbers.

The strongest team to challenge the Inform juggernaut is Team Bridgelane, who have a very impressive bunch of riders fronting up for the race. Ben Metcalfe has been up there with the best NRS climbers in recent racing, putting together with more consistency what we saw in the early part of his career. He was a very impressive fifth at the Santos Festival of Cycling, off the back of good showings in the National Road Series (NRS) Tweed Tour. 

Bridgelane also have third placed finsher in the time trial, Pat Eddy, who has plenty of experience winning in the juniors in Ballarat. As a first-year it might be too soon for Eddy, but he's clearly a top quality rider. 

Jensen Plowright is a better climber than a sprinter of his quality has any right to be, but even a good day from him will see it hard to stick with the best, JP van der Merwe is possibly a smokey with his climbing ability and good sprint.

Oliver's Real Food Racing bring fourth-placed time triallist Riley Fleming to the party, he's got a lot of power, and will have been hoping for better from the race against the clock. L'Etape Australia winner Campbell Jones has reportedly been tearing apart bunch rides in Canberra with his climbing ability, but he's yet to do much in more structured racing.

Bailey Walters and Elliot Schultz make for an interesting pair for Malaysian team MEIYO-CCN. Both are lightweight riders who both have quite a punch in their attacks and sprints, belying their size. Schultz was on the attack last year, only just missing out holding onto the assault of the winning move of Drizners and Berwick.

Dylan Hopkins and Zac Barnhill are both registered with a Slovenian team for 2021, both could use that experience to really get to the top of the sport, but they've shown flashes of brilliance in their careers to date. Hopkins turned heads during the tough moments of the NRS Tweed racing, and Barnhill has an impressive performance at the Tour of Bright under his belt.

Ballarat local Jesse Norton will ride as individual at the race, a disadvantage, but the word is good around him that he's putting out very good numbers and his time trial result was a bit of an abberation. 

Kurt Eather is the older of the Eather brothers who have been showing very good form at NSW open events in recent years. While they're yet to show that form against national level competition, they are often one or two bolters for the top five at the race, and it could be Eather this time around.