SIMON Gerrans rules the mountain.
Gerrans yesterday conquered the world-renowned Buninyong circuit and two of the best climbers in world cycling, Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and Richie Porte, in an epic battle to capture his second national road race championship.
In arguably one of the greatest road races ever on Australian soil, Gerrans outsprinted Evans and Porte after covering 18 tortuous 10.2km laps in four hours, 43 minutes, 43 seconds.
The Mars Cycling Australia Road National Champion blue ribbon event went down to a last lap tussle, with ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates Gerrans and Cameron Meyer, Evans (BMC) and Porte (Sky) left to fight it out.
Meyer sacrificed his medal hopes – he finished fourth – to set up the race for Gerrans, who had too much zip in his legs for Evans.
Gerrans, who becomes the first to win two national road race titles at Buninyong, highlighted the world-class nature of the event.
“When you look at the depth of the field and look at these two guys standing by my side, this could be any race, anywhere around the world,” Gerrans said.
“So it really shows the strength of Australian cycling.
“To win in front of an Australian crowd like this, for an Australian World Tour team, obviously it’s very, very special,” he said.
“This is just a huge honour.”
Gerrans said he believed GreenEDGE, with three riders in a 17-strong breakaway, had the race under control for most of the day.
He said having a kick at the end – the key in denying Evans his first national road race title – was important.
Gerrans described Buninyong, which he naturally has a liking for, as an “honest” circuit.
“It’s a road championship circuit.”
Gerrans was among the pre-race favourites but said, despite having done all the hard work, he had been unsure where he was at, given he had not raced since October.
Evans and Porte were also uncertain pre-race how they would go first up for the year, especially with the added factor of not having the support of several teammates as Gerrans
A breakaway of 17, featuring Ballarat’s Rhys Gillett and key riders including reigning champion Luke Durbridge, formed early and led by more than three minutes.
The race all came together on the 15th lap and developed into a race for the ages.
Gillett went on to take out the “King of Mountain” jersey, winning nine of the climbs.
Results, Page 30
The Cadel Evans factor, Page 29
Elvin defends road race title, Page 30