2019 champion Cameron Meyer pulled off a stunning win to retain the Australian Road Race Championship in a thrilling race in Buninyong.
Team BikeExchange started the race on the front as Damien Howson headed down the road in the early breakaway. He was later joined by teammate Kaden Groves as the group grew to 12 riders, before Alex Edmondson jumped across in a small chase group to take the teams numbers to three at the head of the race.
The breakaway eventually broke down as newly crowned time trial champion Luke Plapp (Inform TMX MAKE) went solo with 60km to go. The 20-year-old opened up a gap of over two minutes with Luke Durbridge leading the chase behind with five laps remaining.
With the gap holding steady, Chris Harper (Team Jumbo-Visma) made his move, and the attack spelled the end for Plapp out front as he was caught with 19km to go. The remains of the peloton weren’t far behind, but both Durbridge and Meyer were distanced over the top of the climb.
Meyer eventually clawed his way back to the chasing group before Durbridge reappeared and drove the chasing group heading onto the final lap. The Durbridge-led chase managed to reel all but one rider back in before the top of the climb, but as fresh attacks began to fly, Meyer and Durbridge were distanced once again.
The duo managed to make it back to the head of the race as the group began to look at each other and despite several attacks, the race came down to a reduced bunch kick for gold. Kelland O’Brien (Inform TMX MAKE) was the first to open up his sprint, but Meyer timed his late charge to perfection, stealing the victory on the line to retain the jersey for another year.
“Luke Durbridge is unbelievable, somehow we just pulled off a miracle! We thought we were all gone, buried. I don’t know how to explain that! That is a nail-biting race, somehow it panned out. They committed to me, I didn’t feel that good with four to go, but we just dug deep and somehow, we pulled off a miracle.
“That finish is one of the hardest to get right. Everyone’s legless, I’m legless, I probably sprinted at the lowest watts I ever have, but I just picked the right wheels, ran at the right time and the line came at the right moment. To keep the jersey another year! I can’t believe it!
“I thought there was a chance [with 150 metres to go], I know how much it hurts, I’ve been there out front with 200 to go, Frieberg came past me in the final a couple of years ago. So, you just have to keep going to the line, everyone is legless and somehow I’ve pulled it off.
“I actually messaged Kell O’Brien a couple of days ago, we’re good friends and he asked for some advice, I said ‘bad laps are just as important as your good laps’, and I had to bring everything out there because I had some shocking laps in there, I was hurting, but you never know what you can pull off.”
“It was so stressful out there. We had a great situation early on and then all of a sudden it went arse up, and Plapp went and we though ‘oh no, this is a bad position’, so [sports director] Matt Wilson came up and said, ‘you’ve got to start riding’.
“I did one lap quite hard and they attacked me, but I just didn’t sit up, I just kept riding. It probably took me two laps to come back to the front and I eventually came back. It all came back on the last lap and it was just such a hard race.
“When I got back on, we didn’t even know we could possibly win it with a 100 metres to go really. He [Meyer] is a classy bike rider, I love riding for the guy and the guys rode really well and we did it.
“We just didn’t know we had it won, we never gave up, that’s the biggest thing we stand for in this team, we just never give up, we just keep coming back, keep coming back, keep fighting, that’s what we did today.”
Australian Road Race Championships 2021 – Results:
1. Cameron Meyer (Team BikeExchange) 4:39:12
2. Kelland O’Brien (Inform TMX MAKE) +0:00
3. Scott Bowden (Tasmanian Institute of Sport) +0:00
7. Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) +0:04
Photo Courtesy of Con Chronis.