Wet crits highlight rider grit as Hosking and Welsford claim maiden jerseys

Credit: Cycling Australia/Con Chronis/Zac Williams

Miserable conditions saw riders shiver their way through the criteriums at the Australia road nationals, with Sam Welsford (Australian Cycling Team, Elite Men), Chloe Hosking (Rally, Elite Women), Kell O’Brien (Australian Cycling Team, Under 23 Men) and Ruby Roseman-Gannon (ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast, Under 23 Women) taking out the titles in Ballarat CBD.

While the nation is crying out for rain at the moment, the tongue-in-cheek consensus of those in Ballarat was that the precipitation could have chosen to be a bit more fire-fighting specific in where it fell.

With the mercury down to 10 degrees and driving rain a constant, the fields were constantly withered down through the attrition of the Sturt St loop. While there was aggression throughout each of the races, no riders gained a significant advantage over the peloton and while a break forced the tactical action in the Under 23s, it came down to a sprint to the line from a large group.

In the Elite mens race, Welsford claimed the sprint in drag to the line ahead of Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-Scott) and Nicholas White (Team Bridgelane).

“I am over the moon. This has been in the back of my mind to try to win this race. Last year I missed the mark a little bit so it’s great to come back this year and take the win,” said Welsford.

“It was extremely tough, it was so wet, I couldn’t even see ten metres in front of me at some points. But it was about sticking to what you know and trying to move forward and backing yourself for the tough long sprint.

While the first half of 2020 sees Welsford with his focus on the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, the formidable fast man has his eyes set on a road career after that. While he has been an imposing figure when racing the National Road Series the criterium crown marks his first national title on the road.

“This is pretty special to me as I haven’t had as much success on the road,” said Welsford, “as I have on the track, so to have my first elite medal on the road to be gold, it is just unbelievable. 

“For me to be able to sprint against some of the best guys, it sets me up for post 2020 and where I want to be, and that is on the road.”

Chloe Hosking showed that her Bay Criteriums form was no flash in the pan as she was all over the elite and Under 23 womens race, policing attacks and monitoring the race from the front before eventually sprinting to a narrow victory, won on the throw to the line.

“This is actually my first elite national jersey, despite being around forever, so it is nice,” said Hosking. “It was tight, but a win is a win is a win! It doesn’t matter how much you win by when you’re the national champion.”

Hosking has specifically opted out of the criterium championships in years past, with the sprinter very vocal in her opposition to the national championships continually being held in Ballarat.

“It’s been my protest of the nationals being in Ballarat every year, but I wanted the jersey this year, so I ticked that off,” said Hosking. “I’m looking forward to showing the national jersey off in the United States, it’s one of the best countries to do it in because they have such great crowds and a strong criterium scene.”

Moving to Rally Cycling for the 2020 season the prodigious sprinter has a number of goals set for the year, with living the good life and the Olympics on the agenda.

“I’m looking forward to having a change, a fresh start, getting to see different parts of the world,” said Hosking. “I’m getting probably towards the end of my career and I want to experience the travel that I do and not just go from hotel room to hotel room.”

“I think I would regret it if I didn’t go all-in and try and get selected for Tokyo. So I’m going to do everything to try and put my best foot forward and if I don’t get selected then I’m still going to be in great shape to win other bike races.”

Ruby Roseman-Gannon carried her good legs from the Bay Crits in a second-place finish behind Hosking, which saw her claim the Under 23 womens race.

“I saw Chloe come around the corner,” said Roseman-Gannon, “and then it was a bit of a drag race to the end but I gave it a good crack and it was pretty fun for my first time racing with ARA Pro Racing Sunshine Coast.”

Kell O’Brien made an important mid-race move to bridge to the breakaway that ended up being the key move in the Under 23 mens race.

“This means a lot to me, this event is super special,” said O’Brien. “After coming second last year after taking a lap, that was hard to take on the chin. Then I took second again in the time trial on Wednesday, I was so hungry for this today.

“The weather was interesting, the rain made it hard but I was so happy to take the win.”

“Making my move was hard, but when Jensen Plowright went halfway into the race I had a carrot and I looked behind me and had a bit of a gap and thought it was the perfect time, luckily it paid off. I still don’t really believe it. It is a national title. It is super special.”

The Australian Road National Championships continue with the road races for the age group and para athletes on Saturday, with the elite races and Under 23 women the blue riband events on the Sunday.

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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger