National team fight for respect and jerseys at Cadel’s

Elliot Schultz, Carter Turnbull, KordaMentha Real Estate National Team

Credit: Getty Images/Con Chronis/Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

It’s always an uphill battle for the Australian national team at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, but the Kordamentha Real Estate team put their best foot forward by going on the attack.

The team came into the race with a mix of local riders who had excelled either on the National Road Series or in Asia in recent years. As the second-placed team in the National Road Series, Inform TM Insight MAKE formed the largest contingent of the squad with three of the seven riders from the Melbourne-based team.

All three were on the front foot early on as Connor Leahy, Rudy Porter and Carter Turnbull attacked to form the first move of the race. They were quickly swallowed back up as the tempo in the peloton sky-rocketed in a crosswind section, but it wasn’t long before the national team was again leading the race, with Turnbull and Elliot Schultz skipping away up the road and working well to push their lead over the peloton out to six and a half minutes.

Turnbull and Schultz shared honours at the sprint and mountains points, with Turnbull taking the mountains and Schultz the sprints. Unfortunately Schultz was unable to finish the race, but Turnbull lasted to claim both the sprint and mountain jerseys and display them proudly on stage in Geelong.

“We had four of us who were keen for the break,”said Turnbull after the race, “though obviously you can’t often put four people in the same move. It started off well with me, Rudy Porter and Connor Leahy, but with the crosswinds we got caught I think 17 kilometres in.

“The peloton eased off and Elliot Schultz attacked and I went across to him. I was hoping for more than just two of us… it was a long day out. We almost got caught again as we came into the laps around Geelong, I think the gap was down to 20 seconds, then they sat up and we pushed it back up to a minute, minute and a half.

“I think Elliot suffered a bit – he was pulling quite hard early – and didn’t make it to the finish to take the sprint jersey, but at least I was able to take it then.”

19-year-old Carter Turnbull might not boast much experience compared to the WorldTour riders he lined up against, but he has breakaway experience in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race after jumping in the move of the day in 2019. That performance didn’t mean that Turnbull were going to get any more respect out on the road however, as national and minor teams are rarely given much space by the WorldTour teams in the hustle of the pack.

“We went into it trying to hold our own,” said Turnbull. “We knew we weren’t going to be given much space against the WorldTour riders but if you put your foot in the action and give it a crack, it can’t be too bad.”

“It was just about trying to chop off as hard we could and try to survive to the finish.”

The Kordamentha Real Estate national team’s highest placed finisher was Team Bridgelane regular Ayden Toovey who finished 47th, a minute and a half behind race winner Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-QuickStep). Toovey is a multiple Tour winner at NRS level, with success in Asia as well and described the difficulties in matching up as a national team against top-tier opposition.

“It’s always a good opportunity to see where you stand,” said Toovey. “Obviously, those boys do it every day all year, so it’s good to get some insight and see what I need to develop on from here.”

“It’s kinda hard in this situation, being a bunch of individuals thrown together, trying to work well without sacrificing our own ambitions. It’s pretty hard especially seeing that the UniSA or Kordamentha national teams don’t get much respect within the peloton, so you’ve got to box on all day, or box on with the best just to be at the front. If you’re not, you’re just chasing your tail, hanging on and trying to conserve energy.”

While you might expect the surges and high tempo parts of the race to be the place where a rider like Toovey might fall short of the WorldTour peloton, the Canberra local described the positioning battle as the major difficulty.

“To be honest, it’s generally just the fight for position,” said Toovey. “Those guys have a lot of horsepower and you’ve only got a few bullets, so you’ve got to pick when to fire them. Once you’re in position, you can generally hold the wheel, it’s just the fight to get there.”

Toovey and Turnbull will be straight back in racing at the Herald Sun Tour, with Toovey lining up for Bridgelane while Turnbull will remain in national team colours.

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Written by Jamie Finch-Penninger