With the dust still settling on Buninyong, Al Hinds reflects on what was a thrilling exhibition of Australian racing.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:39 PM


Heat of the moment
Could Caleb Ewan have won the national championship, could the race have played out differently? Probably. Ewan rode a race of a rider far beyond his years, keeping a lid on his efforts throughout the first 17 laps of the Mount Buninyong course, and looked in control, and poised to take the victory heading into the final loop. But after parrying the last ditch efforts of first Darren Lapthorne, then Campbell Flakemore to get away, Ewan himself curiously let loose. Maybe he was lured by the grandeur of a solo victory, maybe he was simply feeling particularly good and thought he could go it alone. Whatever his motivation, it was a ballsy display, and stirred the race in a dramatic fashion. But it was also unnecessary, and ultimately costly. Ewan was the fastest of the front group, and while it may have been dull, the most bankable route to victory for the 20 year old would have been simply to wait and watch Heinrich Haussler and Neil van der Ploeg.

Contrast that to Haussler, whose presence in the final selection was a performance of tenacity, and determined suffering. Twice he yoyo'd, and twice he clawed his way back. He did sparing work in the finale, and critically, muscled Neil van der Ploeg off Ewan's wheel in the final kilometre. He did what he needed to. A professional performance, from a guy that's been a pro a decade longer than Ewan.

Ewan of course, did plenty right, and even with his spurned effort over the summit, only narrowly missed out on the green and gold jersey. As Anthony Tan points out, it may be a hard, but important lesson as he begins his neo-pro year in the WorldTour. Sometimes it's the narrowest defeats which stick with athlete's the longest, and this one will undoubtedly give Ewan plenty to draw on in the years ahead.

O-GE miss out going four from four, but does it matter?
For the first time since GreenEDGE was formed in 2012, the team walks away from the elite men's road race without the green and gold jersey. The team was hurt notably by the loss of two-time winner Simon Gerrans who bowed out through injury, and didn't have the decorated Australian's natural understudy, Michael Matthews, who chose to stay in Europe. That left a youthful team which still collected silver on the day with Ewan, no mean feat. Orica's whole championships have been a step down from previous years, missing out too in the time trial. But, I see that not as under-performance but a sign of re-aligned priorities.

The nationals were a point of major anxiety for the team in 2012 as they marked the team's first major outing. Naturally that led the team to fielding a huge team, and ended with an in-form Simon Gerrans finishing the job with aplomb. In the years since however Orica has given its Australian calendar a reduced focus as its pursued global success. Last year that saw it finish fifth overall in the WorldTour, a mark it'll be aiming to match again in 2015. With increasing ambitions overseas races like the national championships, while nice to win, aren't the be all and end all.

On that note, this was a funny tweet exchange.

The peloton left it too late
The same very nearly unfolded last year, and was true too of 2013, but the idea of a late chase bringing an escape back on Buninyong underestimates the nature of course. The back of the course after the KOM is narrow enough and fast enough that it doesn't do much to favour the peloton, no matter how strong, and given the escape has a collection of riders willing to work together it's near on impossible to make significant gains on three quarters of the course. For the climbers stuck in the peloton, it may be a time for a rethink as to how to tackle the nationals and whether a concerted commitment earlier, and less willingness to give a break room might be worth consideration.

No fairytale finish for to Evans' legend
Cadel Evans has never won an elite men's national road title, and now, save a late decision to extend his career another year, never will. A fairytale finish to his career, in green and gold, not to be. Perhaps though that isn't all bad. Evans would have, had he won, taken the jersey to two races, before retiring it, and his career, at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Instead it'll go with Haussler to Europe, which if nothing else will put it front and centre in the classics, and the WorldTour. But I like to think it'll give Haussler's career a welcome boost too. "Heino" has never quite found his world-beating 2009 form, and maybe holding the jersey will be the catalyst to a return to his best. He at least seems to think so, telling reporters in Buninyong yesterday, that "(the jersey) puts you on a different level.. and you'll just take that from race to race.. throughout the year."

Bobridge on course for hour record
Any doubts over Jack Bobridge's ability to match it with the best have been debunked this past week with a splendid championship performance across both the time trial and road race from the South Australian. Bobridge hasn't had the happiest few years in the WorldTour but a return to Australia with Budget Forklifts, and a revival of his former partnership with National Track coach Tim Decker have Bobridge looking very slick ahead of his UCI World Hour Record attempt. The South Australian will ride against the clock 31 January at the DISC velodrome in Melbourne, aiming to beat the mark set by Matthias Brandle. I'd suggest he's odds on to better the Swiss rider's current 51.852km record at a canter.

And a shoutout to Mathew Hayman. 'Cos this is all class.