Chris Harper, James Whelan and Sarah Gigante claim gold on final day of 2018 Oceania Road Championships
Australia’s Chris Harper, James Whelan and Sarah Gigante claimed road race titles on the final day of the 2018 Oceania Road Championships, in Railton, March 25.
Under 23 and Elite Men
Australia’s Chris Harper continued his amazing start to 2018 riding away to claim the 2018 Oceania title, adding it to his Australian Championship bronze and top 10 finishes at the New Zealand Cycle Classic and Herald Sun Tour.
“It feels pretty good. I didn’t know what to expect coming in to it. I put myself in a position to be in most of the moves during the race, so I am happy to come away with the win,” Harper said.
“The course is super hard, and the conditions were as well. Obviously, the weather kept going from being sunny and warm to cold, and the wind played a big factor as well. Couple of sections of the course were windy and that plays a big part and takes a lot out of everyone’s legs.“
The under 23 title went to 21-year-old James Whelan (Australia), who claimed silver at the Australian National Championships, finished just two seconds behind the elite winner Harper.
“I’m pretty stoked. I think last year I finished around 45th place so it is a big improvement from last year,” a delighted Whelan explained.
“My teammates did a great job today, they put faith in me and I had to deliver and myself and my teammate Cyrus [Monk] came second so it was a good day out and super rapt.”
“It was always on, you’ve got the big ascent which is about 10 minutes and then you’ve got rolling hills all the way to the headwind in the finish so really really tough course that sort of naturally filtered people but always on the pedals,” Whelan added of the challenging course.
For the first time during the weekend the peloton was treated to a sunny start as riders rolled out for the 158-kilometre course, comprising six laps. Attacks were almost immediate with eventual under 23 champion Whelan the first to make a move on the opening lap.
Attacks were frequent over the opening three laps though a nine-rider group comprising Harper, Whelan, Alexander Evans (Australia), Jason Lea (Australia), Cameron Bayly (Australia), Ryan Thomas (Australia), Joshua Wilson (Australia), Cyrus Monk (Australia) and Angus Lyons (Australia) would prove to be a decisive move on lap four.
With a number of riders bridging across a new group of Harper, Lea, Monk, Lyons, Whelan, Oliver Martin (Australia), Tim Cameron (Australia) and Ryan Thomas (Australia) crossed the line together with two to go.
A lap later only Harper, Martin, Thomas, Lea, Monk, Lyons and Whelan remained out front as the pressure continued to be pressed by Drapac EF Cycling and Bennelong SwissWellness. Soon only Lea, Monk and Harper were left with Whelan fighting to remain in contact.
Inside the final five kilometres Whelan was back in contact and attacking. In the finish it was Harper and Whelan who contested the win with Harper too strong.
Under 19 Women
Sarah Gigante (Australia) surged clear on the final lap to seal a maiden Oceania crown having animated the race from the start.
With rain falling as the peloton left Railton for three laps of the 26.2 kilometre undulating circuit, Gigante was the first to attack, though the peloton remained together through the first passage of the finish line. As the pace lifted a number of riders found themselves off the back, with Gigante among them though determination saw the Australian fight and re-join the peloton.
A select group started the final lap together with the climb quickly reducing the group to just Gigante, Niamh Fisher-Black (New Zealand), Jenna Merrick (New Zealand), Connie Obrien (New Zealand) and Hannah Bartram (New Zealand). Gigante upped the pace with only Merrick able to follow as the duo quickly pulled away and built a near one-minute advantage on a regrouped eight riders with 10 kilometres left to ride.
As they reached the five kilometres to go sign Gigante surged again and this time was able to dislodge Merrick as she rode solo to claim the victory by 47 seconds with Obrien completing the podium over two minutes behind.
2018 Oceania Road Championship Medallists
Gold – Chris HARPER (Australia)
Silver – Ryan THOMAS (Australia)
Bronze – Oliver MARTIN (Australia)
Gold – James WHELAN (Australia)
Silver – Cyrus MONK (Australia)
Bronze – Jason LEA (Australia)
Under 19 Women
Gold – Sarah GIGANTE (Australia)
Silver – Jenna MERRICK (New Zealand)
Bronze – Connie OBRIEN (New Zealand)