Sydney Road Titles 2018: U23s steal the show at windy Regatta Centre

Toby Orchard wins the Under 23 Men's Sydney Road Titles 2018 and Metropolitan Championship

Click for photo gallery.

Penrith Cycling Club’s Sydney Road Titles, this year incorporating the NSW Country and Metropolitan Road Championships, have been run and won. The racing took place yesterday at the Penrith’s Regatta Centre on what had begun as a picturesque winter’s morning. Come early afternoon, a howling westerly was buffeting riders with a block headwind along almost half of the five-kilometre circuit.

The Morning races

The MMAS1-2 bunch is strung out at Penrith's Regatta Centre during the Sydney Road Titles 2018.
The MMAS1-2 bunch strung out through the chicane at Penrith’s Regatta Centre. Click for full gallery.

The day saw around 300 participants – an enormous turnout – challenging for the titles of Metropolitan Road Champion and Country Road Champion in their respective age categories.

The first rider across the line was Jack Yuen (Waratah Masters CC), winning the Men’s Masters 7 category. Evidently there was some confusion about the lap count, as instead of celebrating, Yuen’s first reaction when crossing the line was to ask, ‘Is that it?’.

The lap count would continue to challenge the commissaires after an enormous crash took down over a dozen riders in the Men’s Masters 4 race. By the time ambulances had cleared the scene, the delay had pushed back the start times of all subsequent races and forced a shortening of race distances.

That did little to temper the spirits of Michael Clark (Marconi CC), who outwitted the combined Men’s Masters 1 and 2 peloton by soloing to victory by over two-and-a-half minutes. Although the MMAS1 riders had no reason to chase, it was nevertheless a commanding ride from Clark. He made the winning move after a flurry of early attacks from a number of riders softened legs in the bunch.

Women’s race: Sydney Uni-Staminade dominate again

In the combined Elite and Under-19 Women’s race, despite their numerical advantage Sydney Uni-Staminade were unable to split the race as they did at last week’s Remembrance Cup. The result of the bunch sprint, however, was certainly just as dominant: the pink and purple-clad NRS team locked out the Elite Women’s podium, with Georgia Whitehouse (SUVelo) taking her second State Open win in as many weeks, ahead of Angela Smith (Peloton Sports) and Abby Sneddon (SUVelo).

Portia Rennie beats Chloe Heffernan by a bike throw at the sprint finish of the Under 19 Women's race at Sydney Road Titles 2018
Makenzie Scott (left) edges Tess Wallace for 9th place. Click for full gallery.

One of the idiosyncrasies of combined-championship racing is the race-within-a-race. This brought about the unusual sight of riders sprinting for 9th place in the bunch, aiming for the highest place finish possible. Makenzie Scott (Hunter District CC) narrowly edged out Tess Wallace (St George CC) with a bike throw at the line, although it turns out that both were racing in different categories.

An action-packed Under 23 race

Ben Spenceley leads the Under-23 Men's breakaway at Sydney Road Titles 2018
Ben Spenceley leading one of many iterations of the breakaway during the Under 23 Men’s race. Click for full gallery.

It was the Under 23 Men, however, who stole the show, putting on a terrific display of aggressive racing in the biting wind. As riders attacked, chased, reshuffled, and attacked again, the situation on the road seemed to change lap by lap.

Northern Sydney CC clubmates Angus Calder and Daniel Newman were the first to get away, with Jordan Louis (St George CC) chasing hard by himself. Two laps later, Louis had caught the leaders. However, shortly afterwards, the peloton reabsorbed breakaway and counterattacks began flying.

Another break emerged, consisting of Chris Powell (St George CC, Nero KOM Racing), Myles Stewart (Tolland CC, Rauland) and Daniel Simpson (Canberra CC, Phoenix Cycling Collective), with Lidcombe-Auburn’s Benjamin Spenceley substituting for Louis by attempting to bridge across alone. Somehow, Powell dropped out of the lead group to be replaced by Jacob Emmerton (Goulburn CC), and with Spenceley on board, the quartet chopped off hard to establish a gap over a rapidly-thinning bunch.

With two laps to go and his Nero KOM Racing teammate Powell now out of contention, Angus Calder found fresh legs to make his second move of the day, chasing hard out of the main bunch with former Nero teammate Toby Orchard (SUVelo, Australian Cycling Academy) for company. Working together, the strong duo looked almost certain to bridge the gap to the leading quartet. It seemed inevitable that if they made the catch, Orchard would be unstoppable in the sprint.

As it turned out, the catch was made before the start of the bell lap. Despite some attempted late attacks, this leading group of six arrived at the finishing straight intact. Taking advantage of a raging tailwind, Orchard leapt out of the group from distance. He managed to hold off his rivals to cross the line first, pumping his fist after an action-packed championship race.

Elite Men

Sam Hill punches the air while winning the Elite Men's race at Sydney Road Titles 2018
Sam Hill punches the air after winning the Elite Men’s race from a late two-man breakaway. He also won both primes – a perfect day out! Click for full gallery.

The Elite Men’s peloton was no less aggressive, with a number of riders trying to force a move. However, on this day one rider stood head and shoulders above the rest. Sam Hill (Hunter District CC, Phoenix Cycling Collective) was seen almost constantly at the head of affairs, and always in the right group at the right time. Hill won the first intermediate sprint from an early two-man breakaway with Edward White (SUVelo). By the time the second intermediate sprint came around, the pack had been reshuffled, but Hill nevertheless found himself at the top, this time winning the prime from a breakaway of four.

When that breakaway was reeled in with around four laps to go, the race looked nailed-on for a bunch sprint. Hill, however, had other ideas. He attacked at the bell, this time with Cameron Roberts (Goulburn CC, GPM-Stultz). Somehow, this pair of audacious attackers survived the final loop around the Regatta Centre, holding off the peloton to contest the win. In the sprint, Hill was too strong for Roberts, sealing the overall victory to confirm a perfect day out in windy Penrith.

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