2018 may only be a few days old, by cycling already has its first two national champions of the new year as Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and Rebecca Wiasak took victories at the Australian National Criterium Championships.
For Mitchelton-Scott sprinter Ewan it was his third title in the event in as many years as he benefited from a strong team effort as the five-strong squad kept the main breakaway of the race on a tight leash, never allowing the five riders up the road more than 15 seconds.
Luke Durbridge, Lucas Hamilton, and Cameron Meyer then kept the pace high through the final laps, stretching out the peloton to leave Ewan in a perfect position on the wheel of final lead-out man Alexander Edmondson going into the final straight.
From there Ewan never looked like losing, sprinting across the line in his trademark low, aerodynamic position with a couple of bike lengths to spare ahead of Steele von Hoff (Bennelong SwissWellness) and Brenton Jones (Delko Marseille Provence KTM).
“There was a fair bit of pressure going into the race because I had to defend my title and also pressure on myself,” Ewan said after taking victory.
“I wasn’t sure how I would feel in the race because usually I have had a few race days by now so I didn’t know exactly how I was going to feel and I always want to get my season off to a good start.”
Mitchelton-Scott also had five riders in the women’s elite event, but had to settle for second as Sarah Roy was out-sprinted by Rebecca Wiasak.
As would be the case in the men’s race later in the day, Mitchelton-Scott controlled proceedings, including sending Amanda Spratt up the road with former winner Lauren Kitchen (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope) in the most promising break of the race.
However it all came back together for a final sprint, where 33-year-old track specialist Wiasak took the first national road title of her career.