A self-described lose-lose scenario became a massive win-win for Gracie Elvin and the Orica-AIS team at the Australian road cycling championships.
On Saturday Elvin became the first woman since the legendary Kathy Watt (1992-94) to win back-to-back Australian road race titles.
There was growing pressure on Orica-AIS because they had not won the time trial or the criterium at these nationals.
The relief was obvious when Elvin took out a nine-rider sprint to win the 102km race at Buninyong, near Ballarat.
“It’s a lose-lose situation – if you don’t win you get a lot of crap put on you as a team and if you do win, everyone kind-of excepted it,” Elvin said.
“For us, it was a really important thing and we can all sleep tonight.
“I might not sleep, actually.”
It was a gutsy ride from Elvin, who was nursing a bruised and grazed backside after crashing out of Thursday night’s criterium.
She was also the first rider to bridge the gap to Victorian Lisa Jacobs, who made a solo break on the first of 10 laps on the hilly circuit and stayed clear for well over half the race.
Elvin was then dropped on the last climb, but she did not panic.
She latched onto NSW rider Lauren Kitchen and was able to work back to the leaders for the finish.
Elvin said Thursday night’s injuries were the least of her worries.
“It was my legs hurting the most,” she said.
At least this time Elvin did not add to her pain post-race.
Last year, she fell and landed heavily while stepping off the victory podium.
“That’s a bonus – I nearly broke my arm last year,” she said.
Fellow Orica-AIS riders Amanda Spratt and Shara Gillow were also in the front group at the finish, with Gillow in particular helping set Elvin up for the win.
This is Elvin’s first win since last year’s national title.
“It feels like last year wasn’t a fluke – I’m really happy to win, but … I owe it all to my team-mates,” she said.
Kitchen, who was second ahead of Katrin Garfoot, wisely did not lose focus when Elvin used her to rejoin the leaders on the last lap.
“I knew that was what was going to happen and there’s no point getting angry about it,” Kitchen said.
“I’m pretty happy with silver.”
Emily Roper finished sixth to claim the under-23 title ahead of fellow Queenslander Jenelle Crooks and SA rider Jessica Mundy.
The warm conditions contributed to a race of attrition, with only 35 finishers from 63 starters.
Earlier on Saturday, rising star Caleb Ewan won his second title at these championships when he took out the under-23 men’s road race ahead of West Australians Robert Power and Bradley Linfield.
The nationals end on Sunday with the main event, the 183.6km men’s elite road race.
Tour de France stars Cadel Evans, Richie Porte and Simon Gerrans highlight a strong field.