A thrilling finish to the men’s race has seen New South Welshman Mark Renshaw defend his title in the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic.
In a desperate sprint finish for second place on the final stage held in Geelong, Victoria, the 25-year-old just held off overnight leader Allan Davis to collect the title on a count-back.
Picking up final stage victories were Athens Olympic gold medallist Sara Carrigan and reigning Australian road champion Darren Lapthorne. Both completed daring breakaways begun with over 10 minutes remaining to perfectly round off their preparations for this week’s Australian road championships in Ballarat, Victoria.
Dubbo teenager Megan Dunn held off her much more experienced and credentialed opponents to become the youngest ever women’s winner of the event. Kate Bates and Belinda Goss finished second and third.
“I’m in shock. I didn’t think I could hold on to the yellow jersey. I can’t explain how I feel,” said an elated Dunn.
“I came down here just to learn off the girls. I’ve learnt so much about team work and how to race, it’s been fantastic. I’ve won seven national [junior] titles, but this is better than that. To beat girls who have won Olympic gold medals and world championships is amazing.”
Carrigan said she was pleased to finally reach the top spot on the podium after a solid week in preparation for the Australian titles. “I’ve been a two-time winner of the Australian title so I’d like to make it third time lucky,” Carrigan said.
The men’s race continued the thrilling action that has enthralled the large crowds all week, with the top four riders – Davis, Renshaw, Baden Cooke and Hilton Clarke – going into the final stage separated by just five points.
Halfway into the one-hour race, dual Jayco Herald Sun Tour winner Simon Gerrans led a three-man breakaway. The trio stayed away for 15 minutes before they were dragged back by the peloton, allowing Lapthorne the opportunity to launch an immediate counter.
Despite spending seven hours in Geelong hospital and still nursing a nasty gash on his elbow and abrasions on his hip after a crash in Portarlington on Thursday, Lapthorne produced a powerful, controlled ride over the final 13 minutes to win by 15 seconds.
The main protagonists for the series win were tightly bunched at the bell, and on the climb to the finish, Renshaw managed to get over the top of Davis and Cooke to claim back-to-back-titles.
In doing so, he joins six-time series champion Robbie McEwen as the only men to defend their title in the 19-year history of the event.
“It’s great to defend the title. The week started well and then went a bit off course the next day but I finished it off perfectly today,” said Renshaw.
“To start the year off with this type of win is great. You look at the start list and its as good as any race in Europe. I’m looking forward to riding with Gerro at the nationals this week,” Renshaw said, referring to his new Crédit Agricole team-mate Simon Gerrans.