The 2019 National Road Series kicked off yesterday at the Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool, the 262-kilometre classic was taken out by under 23 National Champion Nicholas White.
144 riders took to the start line in Avalon and the attacks started at the drop of the flag with InForm TM Insight MAKE represented in all the key moves. Throughout the first 70 kilometres there were several attacks but nothing managed to stick until the decisive 13 rider break pushed clear. All the major teams were represented in the escape, so the pace in the peloton was switched off completely. The slashing of the tempo in the peloton saw the gap balloon out to 14 minutes at one point. Will Moloney-Morton and Tom Jones began to ride a solid tempo at the front of the bunch after the main field had been threatened to be pulled from the race due to the significant time gap between the two groups.
Included in the winning break was 2018 NRS winner Raphael Freienstein, Oliver Martin (Drapac Cannondale Holistic Development Team), Harrison Bailey (GPM-Stulz), Nicholas White (Team BridgeLane), Brendan Johnston (Stitch and Dirt), and Cyrus Monk.
“With 13 riders in the move it would have been nice to have a second rider there. The guys did a great job following moves early and I think they relaxed a bit given we had Raph there,” Team Director Pat Lane said.
With the major players in the front group having no teammates in support, the final 40 kilometres was a cagey, tactical affair with no rider being able to snap the elastic to gain the advantage to cause problems for the others in the front group. With much of the pressure being put on Freienstein and White to pin back the attacks, a cool head was required from the favourites at the back end of such a taxing race.
With two kilometres to go, it felt like there was only one outcome, a sprint finish. White kept his cool and timed the slightly uphill sprint to perfection, winning comfortably ahead of Bailey and Johnston, with Freienstein coming in for fifth.
“I was happy to have a sprint as I knew nobody would let me ride off the front. Unfortunately at the end of a big day, and not having any long races under the belt this summer, my legs were just cooked and once I launched my sprint I had nothing left and my legs started to lock up,” Freienstein said.
Freienstein who always has the teams best interests at heart, said he was disappointed to not repay the faith the team showed in him.
“I’m still upset that I let the team down as they fully backed me in the break and I couldn't finish off the job. Everyone in the team seemed really strong and had a great race. Big engine Tom Benton had a fantastic day and is now leading the under 21 NRS, so that’s a big positive to take out of the weekend.”
“Nick White is the deserving winner, he was super strong all day and played a smart game. He is coming off a really big summer winning the under 23 National Championship and racing the Tour Down Under, I guess he also had the better racing preparation leading into the ‘Warnie’,” Freienstein said.
The National Road Series now heads to the sunshine state for the Tour de Brisbane on April 14.