Victoria's Simon Gerrans, 31, has been crowned Australian champion after a thrilling elite men's road race at the 2012 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships in Buninyong, near Ballarat.
GreenEdge's Gerrans, the only Australian to have claimed a stage win in each of the 'Grand Tours', Tour De France, Giro d'italia and Vuelta a España, edged out Tasmania's Richie Porte (Team Sky) and Victoria's Matthew Lloyd (Lampre - ISD) in a sprint to the line at the end of the 163.2 kilometre race.
"This is such an honour, it is far and above one of my proudest moments in cycling and to now (I get to) be crowned Australian champion for the next twelve months, and to be able to wear the green and gold through all the big races in Europe," said Gerrans.
"I just capped off some great team work from GreenEdge today, I am so proud of all of the guys," he added.
A field of 140 riders set out to conquer sixteen laps of the 10.2 kilometre course and the pace was fierce from the start. Repeated attacks and counter attacks had the fans enthralled as Australia's top talent battled for the green and gold in a brutal contest that saw only 21 of the 140 starters complete the race.
[youtube width="600" height="361"]httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIAu1lJHz64
Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships - Men's Road Race
SBS News coverage of 2012 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships - Sunday 8th January. Men's Road Race.
"I have done a lot of hard work over the past couple of months to start the season in good shape, so that's why it is such a thrill that all that hard work has paid off with a win." Gerrans added.
Despite being forced to battle it out in a sprint at the end of the race, the experienced Gerrans revealed he was confident heading into the final moments although he had been a little worried when he and Lloyd thought that it was Tour of Spain stage winner, CJ Sutton (Team Sky), a talented sprinter chasing them not Richie Porte.
"It was only about five hundred metres before the line when I realised that it was Richie Porte, so I was a little less worried knowing it was him," said Gerrans. "Coming to the finish after a long tough race like that one with a time triallist and a climber, I knew I had a bit of a kick on me to finish off a race like that, so I was confident coming to the line." The win gave the GreenEdge team it's first professional win and Gerrans paid tribute to his teammates efforts during the race.
Luke Durbridge (GreenEdge) added a new title to his bulging palmares today in Learmonth, besting defending national champion and teammate Cameron Meyer by seven seconds to take his first elite championship in the individual time trial. Three-time world time trial champion Michael Rogers (Sky) won the bronze medal.
World under 23 Champion in the discipline, Durbridge motored his way around the tough 38.2 kilometre course in a time of 46:20.44, at an average speed of 49.47 km/h.
"I train all the time with Cam and we were sort of trash talking each other leading into it, we're really good mates," Durbridge said post-race. "There's been a few time trials back home where he's got back on me by about 7 seconds.
One of the pre-race favourites, Jack Bobridge (GreenEdge), crashed within the first kilometre of the race heading along the Sunraysia Highway after he fell heavily after being passed by a truck on the partially open course. Bobridge was taken to hospital with a haematoma on his left arm however no fractures were suspected.
[youtube width="600" height="361"]httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhkUcEx262c
Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships - Time Trials
SBS News coverage of 2012 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships - Tuesday 10th January. Men's Road Race.