Riders from British and Australian WorldTour teams went head-to-head at the Australian national road race championships yesterday (8) with Team Sky members narrowly losing out to their GreenEDGE rivals.
Former Team Sky rider, Simon Gerrans, who left the British outfit at the end of the 2011 season to join GreenEDGE, was crowned Australian national road race champion after winning a sprint for the line in Buninyong, to finish ahead of breakaway partners, Matt Lloyd (Lampre-ISD) and Ritchie Porte (Team Sky).
Porte, who raced for the first time in the colours of Britain’s Team Sky after riding alongside Alberto Contador at Saxo Bank in 2011, dug deep to get back on the wheels of Gerrans and Lloyd and contest the sprint for the line after briefly losing contact in the closing kilometres.
The trio had distanced Team Sky’s Chris Sutton and Team Raleigh-ASG’s new Australian signing, Bernard Sulzberger, who continued the form that won him the sprinter’s jersey at the Jayco Bay Classics. Management of the Nottingham-based outfit will hope he brings the same form to British roads this season.
Speaking after the race, Porte declared Gerrans a worthy champion, and paid tribute to Sky teammates, Michael Rogers, Chris Sutton, and Matt Hayman, all of whom will race in the Tour Down Under, which kicks off with Down Under Classic on Sunday (15).
GreenEDGE sporting director, Matt White, told his team’s website that the race had been the hardest national championship he’d seen, with 23 riders still in contention on the last of 16 laps of the 163.2km race.
“We knew it would be an aggressive race. I’m not sure that we knew it would be this aggressive. This was the most aggressive national championship race I’ve seen on a very hard course. The pace totally annihilated the field — including some of our guys – from the start, and it never let up,” he said.
White praised his team’s new national champion and pledged that his Australian GreenEDGE team would show off Gerran’s white, green, and gold jersey at the world’s biggest races.
“Simon is a rider we plan to take to the Tour de France and other major European races. His green and gold will be well-represented,” he said.
GreenEDGE, led by former head of Australian cycle sport, Shayne Bannan, and backed by Australian businessman, Gerry Ryan, is Australia’s first WorldTour team.
The home outfit also took victory in the women’s road race with Amanda Spratt winning the jersey ahead of teammate Tiffany Cromwell. Four of the first 10 female riders rode for GreenEDGE.