It was a combination of team tactics and a stunning solo ride from Sarah Roy that saw Team BikeExchange record an impressive 1-2.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

7 Feb 2021 - 1:08 PM 

Roy was in the early move of the day and was the strongest in the six-rider move, dropping her rivals and going solo to take out the elite women's road race title in style, winning the race by over a minute by the finish.

"I thought I'm going to have a go at this and be brave," said Roy. "Durbo (Luke Durbridge) quote of the last couple of weeks has been 'be brave' he said that to me today and I thought 'I'm just going to give it a crack'."

Team BikeExchange, the only Australian WorldTour team, worked around the presence of pre-race favourite Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB), forcing her to drive the pace on the climbs to reduce the ballooning gap to Roy and then attacked her and the rest of the field with a very strong Grace Brown, who powered away to take the silver medal with Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo) in third.

"I think I just took advantage of the break I was in," said Roy. "I had a look around, there were good strong riders and some sprinters with previous injuries from their crash in the criterium a few days ago. I wasn't confident they'd be able to get around the course together. I felt really strong on the climb today surprisingly, I haven't really trained for anything like this."

Roy has been training on the track recently with the rumours being that she'll be picked for the Olympics this year in Tokyo. The fact that she managed to win the road race in such impressive fashion while training for the track only increases the magnitude of the feat.

"I didn't come here to do this, I had no consideration of this whatsoever," said Roy. "I think that's what makes it more exciting and emotional. As a professional rider, you want to win the nationals at least once.

"Nothing to be confirmed with the track, it's been a great learning curve for me and it's something that suits my physiology so it will be cool to see what happens with that."

Hanson began the attacks for the day, going clear over the top of the Mt Buninyong climb with five riders, Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Womens Racing), Sarah Roy (BikeExchange), Kathyrn McInerney, Georgia Baker (Australian Cycling Team) and Peta Mullens (Roxsolt Liv SRAM) joining her to establish the early move. Baker, Raynolds and Mullens had all crashed during the criterium and the fall appeared to take its toll as each looked to be struggling at times.

As the break was steadily working its way clear, it was apparent that there wouldn't be a concerted effort from peloton to chase and Emily Watts (Knights-KOM), Amber Pate (SASI) and Gina Ricardo (Sydney Uni Women) setting off in pursuit, hovering two mintutes behind the leaders.

Top Watts claims Under 23 women's title with defiant ride
Emily Watts (KOM-Knights) won the women's Under 23 road race, confirming her ability as one of the best young riders on the domestic scene.

The gap grew steadily over the following laps for the leaders to the peloton and was out to three minutes when Roy attacked with 54 kilometres to go, surprising her breakaway companions as she surged away over the top of Mt Buninyong. Raynolds was the first to respond and did manage to make the juncture to Roy after a hard chase. Hanson joined after a few further kilometres chasing with McInerney dangling behind.

Raynolds was dropped on the next ascent of the climb, leaving just Roy and Hanson at the front of the race, with four minutes and 50 seconds and 45 kilometres left to ride.

The pair cooperated well and while an increase in pace from the peloton threatened to decrease the gap rapidly, once they were on the flatter sections of the course there was no eagerness to chase.

With 31 kilometres to race, Roy left behind Hanson, with a 4 minute and 50 second lead on the peloton, it looked like Roy's race to win if she could maintain her impressive form.

Attacks came from behind in the peloton on the climb, but Team BikeExchange were always present to shut down the moves with Grace Brown and Lucy Kennedy particularly attentive.

The group of Watts and Pate continued to hoover up the dropped riders from the break, riding on through, but only catching slightly on Roy as she soloed her way toward victory.

Final lap fireworks from the peloton were ignited by Brown who launched across to the group of Watts and Pate, briefly caught by Gigante before attacking her again and then surging past the chasing group with only Hanson able to hold her wheel.

Roy soloed home with over a minute's lead to record a stunning solo win, with Brown outsprinting Hanson on the line to complete an impressive 1-2 for Team BikeExchange with Hanson on the podium with bronze.

Watts was the first finisher of the Under 23 women, finishing ahead of Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) and Gigante.