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Simon Gerrans is the new Australian National Road Champion after taking victory in the elite men’s road race ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC) and Richie Porte (Sky). Gerrans sealed the third consecutive title for the ORICA-GreenEDGE team, winning a sprint finish from the final group of four. Cameron Meyer led the group to the line and ultimately finished fourth, after working hard to set Gerrans up for the win.
Gerran’s ORICA-GreenEDGE team looked in control throughout the 183.6 kilometer Buninyong circuit, putting each of their ten riders to use. It was defending champion Luke Durbridge who launched the first attack of the day, just moments after the start. The main breakaway of 17 riders quickly formed with Simon Clarke and Mitch Docker joining Durbridge up the road.
“Our plan today was to put the right guys in the break,” said Sport Director Matt Wilson. “That put us in the box seat behind. The break was very strong, but things didn’t really pan out the way we had hoped and we didn’t feel like the situation in front was guaranteed for us. “
With four laps left to race, the peloton began to reel in the break. Of the 139 riders that took the start, the chasing peloton had whittled down to 32 ahead of the final two laps. On the long sloping lead-in to the final ascent of Mount Buninyong, Cameron Meyer launched an attack. Gerrans quickly followed, with Evans and Porte in pursuit.
“I wanted the guys to set a fast pace and keep it together into the bottom section of the climb, so that I could attack towards the top,” explained Gerrans. “There was already a select group left by the time we got to the last ramp of the climb. Cam had slipped off the front a little bit, and then I attacked in the final few hundred metres of the climb to try to get rid of the other contenders. We got over one by one: myself,then Cadel, then Cam, then Richie. Over the top, the four of us came together again, and that’s how it stayed until the finish. “
With a two-man advantage over the final group of four heading into the finish, Gerrans and Meyer played on their strength in numbers to keep the group together for the sprint. Gerrans will now head to Europe in the green and gold jersey for the second time in his career. His first win came at the beginning of the 2012 season, and set in motion one of the best years of his career, in which he took a memorable victory at Milan-San Remo.
“It’s such an honor to take the jersey again,” said Gerrans. “It was a class field today and it means a lot to me to take this jersey to Europe for another season. It started a really good year for me in 2012, so I’ll try to keep this momentum going and get some big wins coming in Europe this year too.”