Kelland O’Brien and Graeme Frislie have won a Madison National Championship that will go down as an all-time classic, on a thrilling night of racing at the Quest Ivanhoe 125th Austral Wheelrace.
The 200-lap, 50-kilometre Madison was as pulsating as they come in front of a capacity crowd at Darebin International Sports Centre, with the national championship decided on the very last lap of racing.
O’Brien and Frislie never led once in the closing 100 laps before the final sprint, in what was a ding-dong battle with eventual silver medallists Oliver Bleddyn and Blake Agnoletto, who had one hand on the national championship with 10 laps to go, courtesy of a two-point buffer.
As the bell rang to mark the last lap, it was Frislie who held the sprinter’s lane in front of Bleddyn, after a dual change by both teams.
A flat-out drag race ensued between the two, with Bleddyn desperate to come around Frislie.
But the pace of Frislie proved unrollable, who in winning the final double-points sprint turned a two-point deficit into a two-point victory.
“This was probably one of the most open years we’ve had – there's just so much quality in the entire field,” Frislie said post-race.
“We got pushed all the way but managed to get there in the end.
“It was so awesome coming into that last sprint and hearing the noise and getting the energy from the crowd.”
The win is a first Madison National Championships for Frislie, while O’Brien reclaims his hold on a title he has now won on three occasions in the last five editions of the race.
Bleddyn and Agnoletto were rightfully disappointed with their silver medal after leading for the majority of the final 100 laps.
However, the young pair found consolation in their performance over the entire 200 laps.
“The first 150 laps were pretty cruisey,” Agnoletto said.
“I felt pretty solid - we were talking a lot.
“And then we got to the last 30, 40 laps and it felt like an eternity.
“We were probably a bit reserved in the first bit and sat on the wheels in the sprints a bit too much but we rode our hearts out and I think it just shows what’s to come in the next few years for me and Oli as Madison partners.
“Look out next year I guess.”
O’Brien won his second Austral Wheelrace earlier in the night, repeating his 2019 success from scratch.
Fellow scratch marker Lucas Plapp scythed his way through the 24-strong field in aid of O’Brien, with a large, early train of back markers chopping and dwindling with every passing lap of the eight-lap wheelrace.
The motoring back markers made the catch of the front of the race with two laps to go, allowing Plapp to deliver O’Brien to the optimal drop-off spot for victory in front of a loud hometown crowd.
Bleddyn and Agnoletto rounded out the podium placings in second and third from 60-metres and 40-metres respectively.
O’Brien’s win was clocked at one minute and 58 seconds.
“Thanks to all the back markers – they were amazing today,” O’Brien said post-race.
Across a packed schedule, other winners on the night included Malaysian Azizulhasni Awang in the men’s UCI Sprint and James Brister in the men’s UCI Keirin after a relegation to New Zealand’s Sam Dakin.
Junior team sprint world champions Ryan Elliott, Maxwell Liebeknecht and Dylan Stanton went one-two-three in the UCI U19 keirin, Gregory Walters took out the Para Austral Wheelrace from scratch, and Bendigo’s Bryce Nicholls won the JM17 Austral Wheelrace from 210-metres.