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BALLARAT, Australia (CT) – Kaden Groves (BikeExchange) has sprinted to victory in the Australian criterium championship after riding across to a late breakaway on Friday evening. Nick White (BridgeLane) took second in the two-up sprint while Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange) was third.
Groves and Pat Lane (Inform TMX Make) bridged to the front of the race with roughly five of the race’s 40 laps remaining, joining Durbridge and White who had forged clear a few laps earlier. Lane was soon dropped leaving Groves, Durbridge and White at the head of affairs.
White hit the front early in the uphill sprint but Groves was able to come around with relative ease to take his first elite national title.
“I felt a bit of pressure coming in here,” Groves admitted. “It’s always hard – it’s a really good field here and all the guys in Oz … the level’s really high at the moment. I was pretty disappointed after my second place at TDU [the Santos Festival of Cycling] in the final stage criterium and it’s really nice … if there’s one to win I would have picked this one. So, yeah really special.“
It was an aggressive race with attacks aplenty, many of them instigated by Durbridge. The West Australian attacked perhaps half a dozen times in an hour of racing.
A few breakaway groups got clear at different times but all were ultimately nullified. All apart from Durbridge and White’s final salvo, plus Groves and Lane’s effort to bridge across.
Groves said afterwards that it was only towards the end of the race that he started to find his legs.
“I was struggling a bit all day to be honest,” he said. “And then I think the endurance came through in about 40 minutes. When it was starting to get hard and I was feeling the worst I thought it’s probably the time to go. I found with the headwind it sort of neutralised everything when guys were attacking up the home straight so I knew we had to go out of the top last corner.”
That late attack proved to be the winning move.
Kell O’Brien (Inform TMX Make) put in a late surge, trying to come across as well, but he left his run too late and ultimately had to settle for fourth. Former champion Brenton Jones led home the bunch in fifth at 24 seconds.
Earlier in the evening Matthew Rice (ARA-Sunshine Coast) took out the U23 men’s criterium title in a bunch sprint. Bryce Lanigan took the silver medal ahead of Craig Wiggins.