The AusCycling stars have regained the individual time trial Australian titles and putting themselves on track for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
After a few years without wearing the green-and-gold jerseys, pre-race favourites Grace Brown and Glasgow 2014 silver medallist Rohan Dennis have regained the individual time trial Australian titles on the first day of the 2022 Federation University Road National Championships in Ballarat.
With 2021 champion Sarah Gigante absent due to illness, Grace Brown was the outright favourite in the elite women’s event.
The Victorian, who placed fourth at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, delivered a performance matching her world-class pedigree.
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On a warm but windy summer afternoon, Brown took to the 28.6-kilometre course around Federation University’s Mount Helen Campus donning the blue, white and red of her new French-based team.
The 29-year-old set out with a scorching pace, catching last year’s bronze medallist Nicole Frain – who had started a minute ahead – by the halfway point.
As the wind picked up, Brown slowed slightly in the second of two laps, but she had enough in the tank to win by over a minute ahead of South Australia’s Amber Pate and Englishwoman-turned-Melburnian Lisa Jacob.
Brown raced home to her second national elite women’s individual time trial in a time of 41:28.68 at an average speed of 41.37km/h.
“I really wanted to get this… I think a lot of people were expecting me to win it as well, so it’s nice to have that done now,” Brown told AusCycling.
“It was a pretty hard race, actually; it didn’t come easy. I’m proud of the effort and happy to have the jersey for the year.
“I know that a lot of girls have been working really hard at the time trial. I was ready for some good competition today. I think I think it’s great how good the field was today and the pressure that I felt as well.”
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The elite men’s race was billed as a head-to-head battle between UCI World Tour riders Rohan Dennis and Delhi 2010 bronze medallist Luke Durbridge, both of whom had won the title on multiple occasions.
The men tackled two laps of a circuit centred on the Federation University campus for a total of 37.5km.
Dennis was the penultimate rider to start, with his West Australian rival chasing one minute behind.
The pair seemed evenly matched after the opening lap, with both Dennis and Durbridge catching Alastair Christie-Johnston.
Dennis would be the one to pull out an advantage on the second lap, and when Durbridge failed to come into sight long after the South Australian had crossed the line, it was clear to those roadside that Dennis had won the 2022 bout.
The two-time world champion completed the course in 45:33.58 at an average speed of 49.39km/h, with Durbridge taking silver and last year’s under-23 runner-up Conor Leahy winning bronze.
The win draws Dennis level with Durbridge on four elite men’s titles each, one behind Melbourne 2006 gold medallist Nathan O’Neill’s all-time record.
2021 winner Lucas Plapp was not able to defend his title due to being a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
“It’s been a good two years since I’ve been back in Australia and it’s always good to win Nationals,” Dennis said.
“It’s never easy as I’ve shown both times when I was world champion; I couldn’t win. It’s always about who can really prepare properly and everyone brings their A-game in January, so it’s always one of the hardest ones to win in Australia.
“I’m just glad I got through unscathed. It’s been obviously a long two years. I hadn’t seen my family for two years and you don’t realise how much you need to fill that cup back up. So, even though I find Europe home at the moment because everything I have at home is there, Australia still has a lot of meaning to me.”
With thanks AusCycling.