Armidale's Sam Jenner (NSW) broke through to take the biggest victory of his still young career with a stellar solo victory at the 2017 MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships in Buninyong.
The 19-year-old riding for Subaru NSWIS spent the 2016 season in Europe with the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy, timed his attack to perfection, spending the final three laps of the 10.2 kilometre course solo. His incredible speed saw him ride the final 30 kilometres of the course in temperatures above 30 degrees as fast as the peloton raced the opening 30 kilometres.
"I made the move about just before three laps to go on the back downhill on Fisken Road. It wasn't really the plan but it was a bit of a lull in the bunch and I thought it was time to go," Jenner said. "I went just back myself and that’s all I could do really.
"It was a bit touch and go there. I started to cramp up the last hill but I just pushed through it. When I got to the top and still had a minute I thought I probably had a pretty good chance of holding on.
"It was just a matter of I suppose just trying to hold as much as I could on the climb, power wise and then just dropping it and trying to recover it on the back straights down the hill with a tail wind.
"Don't give up, just keep on pushing on. There was a lot of encouragement telling me I still had what gaps.
"It's a lot of hard work for me going into this. Last year was really tough for me having crashes and being ill. Never gave up," Jenner explained of using a difficult season as motivation.
"I just kept getting up every time I got kicked down. To pull it off after all the hard work and that is just unbelievable.
"Luckily enough the crashes weren’t that bad I was still able to ride. I suppose I'm lucky in that way as well."
The opening three laps contained a flurry of attacks with the first three groups on the road creating a 21-rider break with four laps completed. Jenner was joined by Benjamin Andrews (VIC), Harrison Bailey (NSW), Matthew Chambers (WA), Alexander Evans (VIC), Daniel Fitter (QLD), Joshua Harrison (SA), Samuel Hill (ACT), Jason Lea (VIC), Peter Livingstone (NSW), Ashley Mackay (WA), Lewis McCrea (WA), Cyrus Monk (VIC), Kelland O'Brien (VIC), James Pane (VIC), Alex Porter (SA), Michael Potter (NSW), Ryan Thomas (QLD), Reece Tucknott (WA), Nicholas White (VIC) and Guy Kalma (WA).
As the laps counted down the size of the peloton whittled to less than 20 riders at the half way point, giving the break confidence they could stay away and contest the stage.
With the sun glaring down on the riders and the gap falling 2014 junior track world champion Fitter was the first to attack, putting his pursuiting pedigree in to action.
Fitter quickly established a one minute lead on Hill and White who were attempting to bridge across with seven of 13 laps completed. With the peloton of pre race favourites at just under three minutes behind.
With the tough Mount Buninyong circuit taking it toll on the entire field Fitter was absorbed by a select group of seven including Jenner, criterium champion Porter, Livingstone, Monk, Evans, Lea and O'Brien.
A lull in the pace meant the remaining peloton was making inroads in to their lead and Jenner put his experience racing in Europe in to action with a blistering acceleration leaving him alone at the head of the race by 23 seconds as he saw the three laps to go sign.
The next lap saw Jenner only extend his advantage to one minute on the chasers and further 30 seconds on the peloton. As he heard the bell he held a one minute and 20 second advantage on a merged nine rider chase group saw a determined Jenner power up Mount Buninyong for the final time. Not even Tour de l'Avenir Mountains Classification winner Lucas Hamilton (VIC) who produced a blistering turn of speed on the final climb was enough to put more than a 20 second dent in to his lead leaving Jenner time to celebrate as he crossed the line.
The battle for the podium positions went down to the wire with 2016 track world champion Alex Porter taking silver to add to his criterium gold as Hamilton added bronze to his silver from a year ago.
"The whole last lap I was cramping up. I had to sort of stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, all the way up the climb and then as soon as I finished the line I couldn't stand. Like every time I went to get up I cramped and fall back down.
"It's weird. You can sort of feel it but when you know there is a gold medal on the line you just push yourself and it just seems all the pain goes away."
An elated Jenner was eager to thank everyone who has been involved in his career."I would like to obviously thank all the people that help me as well like Kevin Poulton, Brad McGee, Ben Kersten, Chris Sutton.
"All the sponsors that have helped me over the year and also James Victor [Cycling Australia under 23 men's coach] for the past year and Cycling Australia."
Under 23 Men's Road Race
Gold - Samuel Jenner (NSW)
Silver - Alex Porter (SA)
Bronze - Lucas Hamilton (VIC)
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