Gracie Elvin (centre) sprints home to win the national road cycling championships. Source: News Limited
GRACIE Elvin made history and saved the day for Orica-AIS by winning back-to-back national MARS road championships.
The 25-year-old from Canberra became the first woman to win consecutive road titles since Kathy Watt (1992, 93, 94) when she out-sprinted a group of nine riders after 120km in Buninyong.
But it wasn’t without a fight when Elvin lost contact with the leaders on the final climb and appeared out of the race before clawing her way back on the wheel of Lauren Kitchen, who finished second, while Katrin Garfoot was third.
Elvin’s win – after she crashed out of Thursday night’s criterium – was most welcome for her team, Australian outfit Orica-AIS, which had missed out on the time trial and criterium titles earlier this week.
“We had the pressure on us because we hadn’t had the jersey from the other two races, but we stayed patient, didn’t get too excited and trusted ourselves and each other and it really paid off,” Elvin said.
Gracie Elvin celebrates her win.Source: News Limited
“We had a girl in every move and were all pretty brave I guess and confident that we could pull it off.
“Shara (Gillow) did a really good job so I owe the sprint to her as well because it was all starting to sit up and I was getting nervous, Shara was really smart and she led it out for us.”
Elvin said it was a special feeling to go back-to-back and also gave her confidence going into the new season.
“It’s a good way to consolidate my strength, it feels that last year wasn’t a fluke and like I said in all my other interviews, I owe it all to my teammates. We work as a unit and that’s how we win a race.”
Victorian Lisa Jacobs went clear of the peloton on the first of 10 laps and extended her lead to beyond three minutes before Elvin launched a solo pursuit of the leader and caught her with two laps remaining.
Miranda Griffiths worked hard to close in on the pair but she was eventually caught by the peloton as Elvin hit out with 20km to go.
The defending champion was eventually caught and with one lap remaining her teammate Amanda Spratt held a narrow lead.
But the counter-attack came from a group of nine which included Elvin, Kitchen, Garfoot, Tiffany Cromwell, Spratt, Emily Roper, Gillow and Jo Hogan, and it was Elvin who had the legs in the final few hundred metres.
Roper was the best-placed young rider to claim the under-23 title to go with her criterium trophy from Thursday night.
“I just needed to be there for my teammates at the end, there were three of us left and I knew it was a numbers game and we were all so strong so I just wanted to help them as well as knowing I’d be strong in the sprint,” Elvin said.
“I had Lauren Kitchen with me at the top of the climb and she pretty much dragged me back because I wasn’t going to chase my two teammates in that small group up the road.”