Australian road champions decided in Bunninyong

The Australian Open road championships in Buninyong, Victoria, finished on the weekend with the elit

The Australian Open road championships in Buninyong, Victoria, finished on the weekend with the elit
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Darren Lapthorne (elite men), Katie Mactier (elite women) and Wesley Sulzberger (U23 men) were crowned the Australian national road champions in Buninyong, Victoria over the weekend. The three races were held on a very testing 10 km circuit, and none of the victories were easy wins. For 23 year-old Lapthorne, the men's title was the biggest success of his career. "It's the happiest day of my life," said Lapthorne who is studying a Bachelor of Business at RMIT in tandem with pursuing his cycling career. "It is an unbelievable moment for me and I'll never forget it." Lapthorne crossed the line well clear at the end of 16 laps in a time of 4hr16min18sec with his Drapac Porsche teammate and Barcelona Olympian, Robert McLachlan, 35, of Canberra, sprinting home 15 seconds later to claim his third Australian Championship silver medal. Tasmanian Karl Menzies, 29, who rides with the American registered Health Net professional team was third. "The way it worked out with having my team mate up there as well, I never imagined it," said Lapthorne who launched a solo break from a leading group of eight riders with 14 kilometres remaining. "I was surprised to get away but once it got up to 30 seconds I thought it's going to come down now. "But every time check was 30 sec, 30 sec and I thought if I just keep this tempo going I've got a chance and you just put your head down and keep going," said Lapthorne who's best previous result was winning the road race at the 2006 Australian Teams Championships in Queensland. "Today we came out and wanted to make a mark on the race and the main aim was to establish a break with the two of us in it (McLachlan and himself)... so it worked out well." Lapthorne has his sights set on a career in Europe and hopes to race there this season with his Drapac-Porsche team, Australia's only registered Pro-Continental team. McLachlan, who was second in 2005 In Echunga, South Australia, behind Robbie McEwen and in 2004 on today's Bunninyong course behind Matt Wilson, was consoled by the fact the man who beat him was his teammate. "First and second on the podium is better than the win," said McLachlan. "I'm stoked to work for Darren, he's such a generous guy, he's never selfish and he'll lie down in front of a train for you. He was the strongest out there....he deserved it." On the first lap of the race Menzies team mate and eight time Australian time trial champion, Nathan O'Neill, launched a solo attack to set the pace. "We said to Nathan get in the early break but we didn't mean go solo off the front," laughed Menzies who also had teammate Rory Sutherland in the race. "He (O'Neill) loves that stuff." On lap two O'Neill was joined by Simon Gerrans (AG2R-Prevoyance) and Chris Jongewaard. Gene Bates ( later joined them but on lap eleven their bid was stymied when the main bunch reeled them in. At that point the pressure was applied and the race splintered leaving 13 riders to fight it out over the last four laps. By two laps to go the lead group had whittled down to eight and as they approached the climb up Mt Bunninyong Rd for the penultimate time Lapthorne jumped clear. "When he went no one could follow him," said Menzies. "All credit to Drapac Porsche because it was awesome what they did (taking first and second)." Women In the women's race, it was 31 year-old Katie Mactier who claimed the honours. Mactier, also winner in 2001, out gunned 11 rivals, including the reigning Olympic and reigning Commonwealth Games road champions, to win the title in a time of 3hr10min35sec ahead of 2003 U23 Olympic distance triathlon world champion, Nikki Egyed (24) with Mactier's Victorian teammate Emma Rickards third. "When you come out and take a win like this with such a competitive field it's the best thing that can happen to you and I can't wait to get up in the morning and go training," said Mactier. "I've been doing this for many years and I think it's an honour to wear the Aussie jersey because it's so hard to get it. "It's three hours of absolute slogging your guts out on that course," she said. "It's a fantastic race and I really enjoy this course (because it's a) very honest and fair course and at the end of the day you work really hard to earn this jersey for the year which makes it more gratifying." Mactier's winning sprint came at the end of a race that saw all the main contenders play a waiting game after Queenslander Louise Kerr launched a solo attack in the second of the ten laps of the 10 kilometre course. Kerr remained in front until the final climb of the race, seven kilometres from home, when her rivals ended her courageous effort and reeled her in. That set up an all star finish with a lead group of 12 riders including Athens gold medallist, Sara Carrigan, Barcelona gold medallist, Kathy Watt, Melbourne Commonwealth Games champion, Natalie Bates and 2003 Australian Champion, Olivia Gollan. Carrigan attacked on the final descent sparking a frenzied response from Mactier and Rickards. "When Sara attacked I knew she is very, very good technically and would make up time on the descent so I said to Emma 'if we don't chase her down she'll win the race'," said Mactier who placed second on the same course in the 2004 Championships. "So we drove really, really hard to catch her." Mactier will now concentrate on her track training. "My priority lies on the track and it's now all about Beijing so everything is now designed for the individual pursuit in August next year," said the Athens Olympic Games silver medallist who will contest next month's Australian Championships in Sydney ahead of the World Championships in Majorca, Spain at the end of March where she hopes to reclaim the individual pursuit world title she won in 2005. For Egyed, the result was disappointing but says she will use it as motivation for the future. "Unfortunately there was a little bit of inexperience on my part and I probably wasn't as aggressive as I should have been," said Egyed who switched to cycling from triathlon because she wanted to be involved with a team rather than continue as an individual athlete. "Our team sat down yesterday and said 'if we don't win this, we should be ashamed of ourselves', we had so many good girls - it's really hard to take." U23 men In the U23 men's 122.4 km road race, the gold medal went to Tasmanian Wesley Sulzberger (20) who outpaced West Australian teenager Cameron Meyer (19) in a two up sprint for the line. Victorian Simon Clarke (20) edged out Bathurst's Dean Windsor (20, Drapac Porsche), 2min25sec later to claim bronze and give the team a clean sweep of the podium. Sulzberger, who last year claimed the Tattersall's Cup Series crown, crossed the line in 3hr15min00sec to improve on his 2006 silver medal and take ownership of the green and gold Australian Champion's jersey. "There was a certainly a bit of pressure on me after last year's results but I knew I'd done enough to be in contention to win," said Sulzberger who launched a solo attack on the tenth of 12 laps and was joined at the front by Meyer a lap later. "My plan was definitely not to lead the sprint out with a headwind and Cam had the same idea so it was a balancing act in the last kilometre with both of us ready to jump off each other. "In the end I was lucky enough to roll him," said Sulzberger who praised the effort of Meyer who had been in the leading group for most of the day. "Cam had an excellent ride and was away nearly all day - the ride of the day goes to him and then to come across at the end again to give me support - it was a top ride by him." Meyer, who last year claimed three Junior World Championship gold medals on the track and was named the Australian Junior Male Road and Track Cyclist of the Year, was thrilled with his first outing in the U23 ranks. "I didn't know what to expect going into my first year but I laid it all out on the line," said Meyer. "Wes was too good today but to have a teammate beat me and for me to run second I'm really pleased. "I'd been out there (at the front of the race) a lot and didn't know how my legs would be but when Wes went it was the perfect move for me to join him and swap off turns to ensure we could go one-two," he said. "I'm a bit young and haven't got my sprinting legs yet and Wes is really tough but I have plenty of years to come.... I would love to have a gold medal at Australian Championships in future." Third placed Clarke suffered from being the man marked by Windsor who found himself outnumbered in the decisive break. "Once we started attacking he (Windsor) had to decide who to cover and unfortunately it was me so I had to put up the white flag and say 'come on guys up to you'," explained Clarke. "He didn't chase Wes when he attacked and I said to Cam you can get across because Dean's watching me and that's what he did. "It was a long day and we just had to ride smart as a team and we managed to come out on top," said Clarke commenting on the fact that five South riders were in a front group of six with three laps to go. "We just knew we had the numbers and knew everyone would be looking at us to take the initiative and we did it the right way." Got a comment? 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