Some of the compelling stories that didn't quite get their own article! Five of the best stories from the national championships outside of the winning of each race.
By
Jamie Finch-Penninger

8 Feb 2021 - 5:23 PM 

Whelan tries a Scotson/Freiberg

James Whelan (EF-Nippo) realised that he was going to make it back to the front of the race after being dropped on the final ascent of Mt Buninyong, it was then a question of what he could do to win the race.

"As I went through the uni I noticed I was gaining a bit of ground on them," said Whelan, "and I thought to myself 'how am I going to win this thing? I'm not going to do it in a bunch kick, has to be the flyer that Scotson and Freiberg did and try to hit them with speed.

"It was exciting to come to that left-hander with two kilometres to go and all look at each other. I was measuring my effort to make sure I was timing it correctly and going past them at the right moment. Unfortunately, they saw me and Durbo saw what I was trying to do, maybe it was the bright pink or I didn't hide in the convoy well enough. I didn't get the gap I needed, or the hesitation I needed to stay away."

The final moments of the 2021 elite men's national road race.

Durbridge was in the front group of the race the year of the Scotson win, but had chased down a lot of moves already for leader Simon Gerrans and couldn't respond to Scotson's attack, a crucial difference between the two editions.

Whelan revealed he was going 70 kilometres an hour as he swept past the group, just not quite enough in the end.

"It was an amazing bike race," said Whelan, "great to be a part of and I'm sure great to watch as well. It's always nice to be in the final kilometre of the nationals fighting for the win."

Whelan, COVID restrictions permitting, will next be in action at the Volta a Catalunya on March 20.

Gigante marked out of road race

Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB) went into the road race on the back of a host of impressive performances that saw her tightly marked throughout.

"It was a challenging day out there," said Gigante, her normal optimism attitude a bit flatter than normal. "It was cool to still come away with a bronze medal in the Under 23 race and really cool to see how excited Emily Watts was after the finish, that was really nice. BikeExchange had a great race, Sarah Roy and Grace Brown going 1-2."

Gigante just beats out Brown for time trial title
Sarah Gigante (TIBCO-SVB) completed a successful defence of her 2020 Australian time trial title, beating out Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) by 17 seconds in a tough tussle for the honour of wearing the green and gold for 2021, with Nicole, Frain (Sydney Uni Staminade) in third.

Gigante was back in the peloton as Roy got out to a four minute and 50 second gap, she had to do a lot of the pace-making up the climbs herself, then was left with little when she tried to attack on the final lap, left behind by Brown initially, catching her only for Brown to justifiably sit on. Then Brown hit her again and it was race largely over for Gigante.

"The break got away and I felt comfortable with it," said Gigante, "but then the gap blew out and ARA were struggling to bring it back so I had to try my best on the climb, but it kinda got out of control.

"I could have raced differently, maybe if I raced with different tactics it would have been different. I tried what I thought was right and it was already going to be tough."

WorldTour pros jumping on flights to Europe

Cancelled races, daily COVID cases are in the tens of thousands a day, but professional teams want their riders back in Europe for training camps ahead of the spring classics and stage races. Some riders are on the plane to then almost immediately catch a chartered plane back for the UAE Tour.

Not all riders will be heading, some are keen to stick around to race the Melbourne to Warrnambool.

That's good news for Aussie cycling fans who can watch plenty of Aussie professionals including Australian elite men's road race champion Cam Meyer, elite men's time trial champion Luke Plapp and elite women's criterium champion Annette Edmondson all on the startlist.

SBS will host a live stream of the last 100 kilometres of the oldest and longest bike race in Australia on the SBS Cycling Central page on Saturday February 13.

Roy on track for the Olympics?

What made Sarah Roy's (Team BikeExchange) performance to solo to the win at nationals all the more remarkable was that she's been doing a lot of track work recently, with a view to trying for a spot at the Olympics.

If there's anything that we've learnt from the week at nationals, it's very possible to mix the two disciplines if you're the right calibre of athlete, but both Roy and the Australian Cycling Team were loath to confirm anything permanent at this stage, though they did confirm she has been training with the track endurance squad.

"Nothing to be confirmed with the track," said Roy, "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."

Amy Cure retired from the track last year, with Annette Edmondson also announcing that she will likely leave the sport after the Olympics.

Roy solos to road nationals title as BikeExchange go 1-2
It was a combination of team tactics and a stunning solo ride from Sarah Roy that saw Team BikeExchange record an impressive 1-2.
Edmondson's criterium win a swansong to the road
Annette Edmondson (Australian Cycling Team) may have said her farewell to competitve road racing with a win at the Australian national criterium championships.

Harper stars, then goes flat

Chris Harper was one of the main protagonists of the road race, attacking from 70 kilometres out and then again to form a leading pair with Kell O'Brien that led into the final lap. Despite his aggression during the race, it wasn't the plan for Harper before the event.

"I said the day before the race I wanted to risk it a little sit back and try and save my legs for the last couple laps," said Harper. "It's always tricky to get right especially when you’re racing as an individual sometimes you can feel the pressure to shut some gaps that maybe I don’t need to.

"I can always look back after the race and pick parts of the race you wish you did differently but I gave it a good crack yesterday, learnt some good things and I’ll carry that into the rest of my season and future national champs."

And what was the story behind the explosion for the Jumbo-Visma rider on the final ascent of Mt Buninyong?

"Just a really bad hunger flat," said Harper. "Very amateur on my behalf especially when we train for these situations but sometimes when the racing is active it's easy to get caught up in it all and forget to reach into the back pocket. A valuable reminder for my upcoming races."

Harper has made a habit of being consistently one of the best at nationals in recent years, and has almost completed a full set of podium positions, with just the win eluding him after going so close on a number of occasions.

"I love racing nationals, not just the road race but I also like challenging myself in the TT," said Harper. "It's a really good week and I think it gives me good momentum going into the year."