17 January 2024; Aaron McNaughton
The start of each calendar year is jam-packed with sporting events in Australia, with the Cycling calendar in particular being loaded with events across the country. Leading the way are a group of University of Melbourne alums who have claimed four major victories in the first three weeks of January.
The Australian Road Nationals (commonly referred to as the RoadNats) were held in Ballarat and Buninyong in Victoria's west from 3-7 January. The event brings together Australia's best cyclists in the battle for the coveted green-and-gold national champion's jersey. First on the victory dias was Arts alumni Grace Brown, who claimed victory in the Elite Women's National Individual Time Trial, her third win in as many years. Brown also won a gold medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022, finished 2nd at the 2023 World Championships, and was awarded the 2023 Women’s Road Cyclist of the Year at the 2023 AusCycling Cyclist of the Year Awards in December, confirming her place as the time trial queen of Australian cycling.
Following the time trials, the RoadNats headed to the historic streets of Ballarat for the Elite Women's Criterium National Championships where Science alum Ruby Roseman-Gannon broke away to win by 14 seconds, her second title after winning the same event in 2022. The final day of competition was headlined by the Elite Women's Road Race National Championship, and Roseman-Gannon picked up where she left on in the Criterium, outsprinting a group of 11 to win her first national road race title. Speaking after her victory, Ruby told roadnationals.org.au 'I think I’m just in shock, (the) last couple of years I’ve wanted this so bad and every year I’ve finished a bit disappointed, and I just can’t believe it. I just wanted to do it so badly today and I had amazing legs. I mean it helped that I was always up the road on the climb but couldn’t thank my team enough, this is the best group and I’m just shocked”
After a big week in Victoria, the cycling calendar turned to South Australia and the prestigious Santos Tour Down Under, a World Tour event. The women's event was held across three stages from 12-14 January, finishing on the imposing Willunga Hill. Going into the tough final stage, Roseman-Gannon riding for the LIV-Alula-Jayco team in the Australian champion jersey sat in 3rd place, 3 seconds behind the leader, while Arts and Diploma in Languages alum Sarah Gigante, riding for the AG Insurance Soudal team was in 16th position, 10 seconds back. The final stage and climb up Willunga Hill played into Gigante's hands, motoring her way up the climb to win the stage by 16 seconds, and the General Classification by 20 seconds, delivering a major WorldTour title to her new team AG Insurance Soudal. The win for Gigante came after fighting injuries and setbacks for most of the last year. Speaking to tourdownunder.com.au, Gigante said “I only raced one race last year, but I have been going out there every single day and doing training sessions. I’m back in great form and I’m with my old coach Dylan Lindsay and I went from the very bottom of (Willunga Hill), my teammates helped me, I was out of position, but they drove me up to near the front (of the peloton). As soon as the road went upwards, I went.”
The Tour Down Under will continue on Thursday 18 January with the Women's Criterium through the streets of Adelaide.