It’s early January in Australia, which means one thing: Road Nationals. Our country’s top road cyclists are descending on Ballarat to compete for the right to wear the green-and-gold stripes. Over the next five days, national champions will be crowned in the criterium, road race and individual time trial.
Last year’s RoadNats proved successful for Sydney’s young sprinters, with St George’s Cameron Scott winning the U23 Men’s Criterium and Penrith’s Stephen Cuff taking out the U19 Men’s Criterium.
In this post, we’ll look at ten (plus one joker) Sydney riders to keep an eye on during this year’s Australian Road National Championships. Not all of them will necessarily win a medal, but if you’re a Sydneysider barracking for homegrown talent, this is a good place to start.
1. Amanda Spratt (Penrith CC)
Of the riders on this list, Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) is the most likely to take home a green and gold jersey. In fact, the 31-year-old has already won the road race championship on two occasions.
Most European-based pros cool off during the Australian summer, but not Spratty. After her silver medal ride at the Innsbruck World Championships, she spent most of her pre-season training at home in Springwood in the lower Blue Mountains. Her dominant solo win in Stage 1 of the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits shows that she’s come into the new year ready to race.
Even if she isn’t at her best in Buninyong, her off-season form will still be enough to rival Australia’s best women.
2. Sarah Roy (Sydney Uni Velo Club)
After placing 2nd last year in the criterium, Spratt’s teammate will be looking to go one better. The team’s house sprinter has a powerful kick, and if she’s on form, she’ll be hard to beat in the finale.
However, much of Roy’s performance will come down to her current fitness. Roy is building up after a long European road season. This summer, she’s been racking up long kilometres around West Head on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Unlike Spratt, Roy has chosen to skip the season-opening Bay Crits. The Criterium National Championship will be her first race of the summer. If she’s able to access her top-end power despite the lack of racing, expect Roy to feature on the podium again.
3. Georgia Whitehouse (Sydney Uni Velo Club)
It’s been a breakout year of sorts for Roy’s SUVelo clubmate, Georgia Whitehouse (pictured above).
In 2018, the 27-year-old won almost every road race there was to win in NSW, clinching the State Championship and season-long Road Premiership. She also showed her strength at NRS level with consistent top-five finishes, deservedly capped off with a stage win at the Tour of Tasmania.
While you wouldn’t expect Whitehouse to win at RoadNats, she should hold her own as leader of her Sydney Uni-Staminade team. She’s an aggressive rider who loves to chase QOM points, so don’t be surprised if she finds her way into Sunday’s breakaway.
4. Ashlee Ankudinoff (St George CC)
Ash Ankudinoff (Specialized Women’s Racing) seems more at home on the velodrome than on the road, but the 28-year-old from Menai has had a successful road season. After securing impressive results on the North American circuit, Ankudinoff returned to Australia to take back-to-back stage wins and the overall at Amy’s Otway Tour.
As a multiple track world champion and Commonwealth champion, Ankudinoff has the finishing speed to make an impact in the criterium. Her 10th-place finish in 2018 merely hints at the result Ankudinoff could pull off.
5. Josie Talbot (Camden CC)
Like Ankudinoff, Talbot is a track/road hybrid who’s had a 2018 to remember, including several podium appearances in the USA. The former junior world champion has been rewarded with a spot in the UniSA-Australia team for this month’s Women’s Tour Down Under.
At just 22 years of age, for Talbot this year’s National Championships will be more of a learning experience than a realistic goal. Look for her to support Roxsolt Attaquer teammate Peta Mullens in the criterium and road race.
6. Cameron Scott (St George CC)
Cam Scott is the reigning Under-23 Men’s Criterium National Champion, and he’ll be back in Ballarat to defend his title. Scott is in hot form, coming off an impressive win in last month’s Shimano Supercrit.
He’ll will be ably backed by a strong Pro Racing Sunshine Coast team, which includes team pursuit world champion and Commonwealth gold medallist Kelland O’Brien.
The Camden rider already has a string of national track titles under his belt, proving he’s a fast finisher. If it comes down to a bunch sprint, it’s hard to see anyone coming around him.
7. Michael Potter (Northern Sydney CC)
Scott’s teammate Michael Potter took bronze in last year’s U23 road race, and judging by recent form he’s likely to leave an imprint on this year’s event, too.
Like Sarah Roy, Potter’s summer has been spent clocking up kilometres on local roads. These haven’t been slow plodding base miles; Potter recently took the Strava King of the Mountain for Bobbin Head West, one of Sydney’s most hotly-contested cycling climbs.
At just under 3 kilometres, Mount Buninyong’s profile is not too dissimilar from Bobbo. If he’s able to convert raw fitness in the chaos of a road race, the engineering student may well manufacture a maiden national title.
8. Robert Stannard (Manly Warringah CC)
20-year-old Stannard (Mitchelton-Scott) will be one of the youngest starters in the Elite Men’s peloton. In the criterium, he’ll also stand out as the sole representative of Australia’s only World Tour team. Mitchelton-Scott have lost three-time criterium champion Caleb Ewan to Lotto-Soudal, leaving them without a true contender for that race.
Stannard, who holds the Strava KOM for Sydney’s Berowra Waters East climb, will likely have a better chance to shine in Sunday’s road race. After a year scoring victory after victory on the Under-23 circuit, Stannard’s fast-track to the WorldTour will seem him play the role of domestique. Look for him to chase down unfavourable breakaways, fetch bottles in the sweltering heat and generally make himself useful to help his teammates retain the Australian champion’s jersey for another year.
9. Tristan Ward (Sutherland Shire CC)
After an excellent 2018, Ward has continued on with the newly-merged Team BridgeLane. It’s hardly a surprise signing: the Shire boy posted outstanding NRS results including overall and stage wins at the Tour of the King Valley and Amy’s Otway Tour.
To feature in these National Championships, Ward will need to make the step up from NRS and prove himself against the WorldTour pros. In the road race, he’ll be riding with a talented team including Ayden Toovey, Dylan Sunderland, Olympian Scott Bowden and last year’s bronze medallist Chris Harper. If Ward himself doesn’t feature in the results, surely he’ll play a role in making sure one of his teammates does.
10. Peter Milostic (Penrith CC)
Veteran Peter Milostic is the Jens Voigt of Australian cycling. The evergreen 44-year-old is still showing youngsters how it’s done, riding prominently in last year’s day-long breakaway. A former national medallist in the individual time trial (he placed 3rd in 1999 and 2nd in 2004), Milostic’s continued presence at the front end of Australia’s flagship road race is an inspiration to Masters riders everywhere.
He’s probably not going to win the thing, but keep an eye on whether Milostic can get Penrith’s club colours back onto national television by forcing his way into another breakaway.
10+1. Darcy Ellerm-Norton (Rapha CC)
He may be a kiwi, but Darcy Ellerm-Norton is a regular feature of the Sydney racing scene. After winning the Criterium White Bay late last year, Ellerm-Norton said he’s simply enjoying racing his bike without the pressure of seeking results.
Although he rides without a team and didn’t contest the NRS, Darcy has the legs to compete at Australia’s highest level. Not only has he beaten quality opposition at Heffron Park, he also dominated the gran fondo L’Etape Australia, beating Jesse Coyle into 2nd place by seven minutes.
If the road championship is a race of attrition, Ellerm-Norton might survive by stealth in his all-black kit while his rivals are picked off one-by-one. Look for him to pull off a surprise result.
Did we miss anyone?Which Sydney riders do you think we should look out for at the National Championships? Tell us in the comments below.
Feature photo courtesy of Jesse Morley.