Canberra's Michael Rogers (Team Columbia) finally added an Australian elite title to his resume on Thursday with victory in the elite men's time trial at the 2009 Australian Open Road Championships in Buninyong, Victoria.
Rogers last claimed an Australian time trial win in 1996 when he won the U19 event, but since then he's forged a spectacular career in professional cycling, including three time trial wins at the World Championships (2003, 2004, 2005).
It was a close run victory, with 20-year-old West Australian Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Chipotle) giving a sensational performance to finish just six seconds behind, claiming the silver medal in his first race as an elite professional.
Competitors battled high winds on the challenging 39km course, with Rogers averaging 47.76km/hour to finish in a time of 48:59.69, ahead of Meyer (49:05.56), with Tasmanian Richie Porte (Praties) in third place (50:50.45).
"I've never won these championships before, so it's a very proud moment for me and the chance to wear the green and gold all around the world is a proud thing to have on my shoulders," said Rogers.
Rogers held a five-second lead on Meyer at the halfway point and reached speeds close to 100km/h aided by a tailwind on the descent to hold on to his advantage.
"The conditions were really tough out there – it was quite cool and there seemed to be a head wind most of the way around," the Beijing Olympian said. "I had a good gap at the halfway distance and knew I just had to hold it together.
“I’ve come from a winter in Italy and have done all my training over there, so it’s certainly great to be back. I miss coming out to Australia and racing here," said Rogers who in 2007, while virtual leader on the road, suffered a crash that forced him out of the Tour de France.
Last year, Rogers was struck down with Epstein Barr virus and only returned to racing mid-season. Despite this, he posted two top 10 performances in Beijing with sixth in the road race and eighth in the time trial at the Olympic Games.
"To come back after two years of misfortunes and sicknesses, I’m just really happy to be back to top condition and back on the top of the podium,” he said.
Rogers also paid tribute to young Meyer. "He’s a classy rider and if he keeps everything together he’ll be a class act for years to come," said Rogers.
Rogers will now concentrate on a possible double gold as he prepares for Sunday's 163km elite men's road race. "By winning today I think I have confirmed I have condition at a top level," he said.
Meyer, who recently signed a professional contract with Garmin-Chipotle, immediately made his mark in the elite ranks with an outstanding ride over the elite distance. In September last year he claimed the bronze medal in the U23 time trial at the Road World Championships in Italy, raced over a distance of 33.5km.
"It's all a bit surreal – I really didn't know what to expect being only 20, so to be on the podium and be only six seconds off the win, I have to be happy," said Meyer. "Part of me is like, ‘You just missed it,’ but when you have the three-time world champion standing next to you, you just have to be happy.
"It's all happening very quickly," said Meyer. "This is my first week racing the big boys and to start with a silver medal gives me great hope for the rest of the year."
Meanwhile, Porte, who was fifth in the event last year, was happy to step up onto the podium. In January last year, after finishing ninth overall in the 2008 Tour Down Under, Porte's year was interrupted by an accident that resulted in a fractured hip. However, he returned to form in September to win the Tour of Tasmania.
"I’m pretty happy, really. I didn't really expect it because I haven't been doing any specific time trial training, so it's nice to get up on the podium," said Porte.
For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.