Shivering and covered in 169.8km of muck – Matthew Dinham was the physical embodiment of a top-10 World Championship result earned the hard way in Wollongong.
The Sydneysider survived a race of attrition to finish seventh in a sprint finish for bronze, much to the delight of the man himself and his teammates.
The 22-year-old was a constant sight at the front of the peloton all day, but tactically kept his nose out of the wind for much of the race as numbers thinned out lap on lap.
Dinham, who launched a late, unsuccessful surge on the last ascent of Ramah Avenue from a heavily reduced peloton, said he was “pretty happy” with the result.
“(I) gave it a crack on that last lap up the climb, trying to see if I could get away and force anything, but unfortunately the way the race panned out it was a little too hard and I couldn’t really do much, especially with some of the stronger sprinters there,” Dinham said.
“I’m happy with it considering it came down to a sprint like that.
“Unfortunately, I just got put away by the faster sprinters at the end there.”
Sporadic rain and wet roads played a leading role throughout the 10 laps of the Wollongong City Circuit, a factor Dinham said was to his benefit despite the challenges it served up.
“It was a really hard day, the weather made it really difficult,” Dinham said.
“Being a mountain biker, I’ve probably got a little bit better technical skills than some of the other guys and especially on a circuit race like this.
“I think as an Aussie we get pretty used to racing them, so I think it played to my strengths.
“Think it (the weather) made it a little more selective which sort of helped me out a little bit without having the same team numbers. It was a little bit easier for me to position against some of the bigger teams.
“After the first few laps you sort of work out where you can move up and which corners are slippery and which ones aren’t.”
The wet weather in Wollongong failed to deter spectators from lining the roads of the circuit, with many choosing to position themselves on the pivotal Ramah Ave.
Dinham said the amount of support for the Australian team was incredible.
“Being a home World Championships - and I’ve done one before in mountain bike - it’s always a really special occasion,” Dinham said.
“I couldn't stop smiling out there today up the climb – the amount of the support we had was incredible and it definitely helped the boys lift to another level.
“Thanks to everyone cheering out there today, really appreciate it.”
The top-10 finish today in Wollongong is another impressive result for Dinham in 2022, following on from an 11th place finish at Tour de l’Avenir and a one-day race win at Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc.
Those results came as a member of Australian-based UCI Continental program Team BridgeLane, but it still remains an unknown just who Dinham will be racing for in 2023, and if it will be a step up to the professional ranks.
“WorldTour is the dream and I just have to wait and see how it plays out,” Dinham said.
To learn more about the green-and-gold campaign at Wollongong 2022, read the Australian guide to the 2022 UCI Road World Championships.
Photos: Getty Sport and Ryan Miu/AusCycling