The first week of the new year brings our first competitive outing of the 2017 season, as our Australian contingent of riders take on their national championships. The elite time trial took place yesterday while the road race takes place on Sunday in Buninyong.
Ben O’Connor lined up to represent the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka colours for the first time this season when he started the 40km time trial yesterday. As a bronze u23 medalist in the event last year, O’Connor was up against the elite riders this year given his World Tour team status, despite still being an u23. Rohann Dennis (BMC) defended the title once again, O’Connor unfortunately came into some difficulty on the course and was not able to finish due to illness.
The road race that takes place on the all too familiar Buninyong circuit on Sunday, will be the main focus for Nathan Haas, Lachlan Morton and Ben O’Connor. Last year our African team secured 2nd and 4th place with Cameron Meyer and Nathan Haas, this year Haas certainly has his eye on the gold medal prize while Morton and O’Connor give us a strong three card trick to play.
The 10km circuit will be completed 18 times which includes the Mount Buninyong climb. By no means a severe climb in terms of its length or gradient, but after 18 ascents and the expected heat, the climb will certainly test the metal of the Australian riders. In a full field of over 120 riders, less than half are expected to finish this tough race. Racing gets underway at 12:15 local time on Sunday.
Nathan Haas – Rider
With the first race of the year being a championship event, tensions are high, nerves are sharp and nobody really knows who’s going fast or how the race will pan out. It’s what makes the Australian nationals what they are, intriguing. A real winner always prevails because 18 laps of a 2.3km climb, you need real fitness, so no hiding. Plans for our team start with being a unit, using our strengths and playing smart for either a closed or open race. I think between us, there is no knowing which step, but we should podium.