Australia’s Paralympic cyclists headlined the opening road races on a cool, foggy fourth day of the 2022 Federation University Road National Championships in Ballarat.
Backing up from Wednesday’s time trials, 11 out of Australia’s 12 cyclists at the Tokyo Paralympic Games took on the 10.2-kilometre circuit at Mount Buninyong on Saturday.
The morning’s events included road race national titles for para-cyclists, cyclists with an intellectual impairment, transplant cyclists and deaf cyclists.
David Nicholas (Bathurst CC), Paige Greco (Port Adelaide CC), Grant Allen (Port Adelaide CC), Stuart Tripp (Alpine CC), Stuart Jones (Newcastle Hunter CC) and Carol Cooke (St Kilda CC) all defended their 2021 titles.
Para-cyclists took to the Mount Buninyong course under foggy conditions. (Photo: Con Chronis)
Paralympic bronze medallist Meg Lemon (Port Adelaide CC), who was beaten by Emily Petricola in Wednesday’s time trial, reversed her fortunes by winning the women’s C4 road race solo.
In the men’s C2 category, Gordon Allan (Parklife CC) won the race solo, marking an early success in his transition from a track-focused program. 2021 champion Darren Hicks suffered a mechanical, opening the door for Allan to add gold to his silver medal from the time trial earlier this week.
There was another close tussle in the men’s B tandem category. After missing gold in Wednesday’s time trial by three seconds, Kevin O’Meley and pilot Richard Vollebregt (Southern Highlands CC) turned the tables on Daniel Searle and Neil van der Ploeg (Albury-Wodonga CC) with a last-lap attack to claim the road race title.
Unfazed by the week’s efforts, O’Meley and Vollebregt now plan to ride home from Ballarat to Exeter, NSW, a journey that they expect to take four days.
Andre Ascui (Preston CC) and Georgia Powning (Preston CC) took out the races for cyclists with an intellectual impairment. Peter Varricchio (Norwood CC) won the men’s deaf category, while Matthew Spencer (St Kilda CC) and Tamaryn Stevens (Coburg CC) doubled up on their national titles in the transplant category.
Kevin O'Meley and Richard Vollebregt, Men B road race national champions. (Photo: Josh Chadwick)
Meg Lemon 🥇 Women C4: “I went a little bit early in terms of attacking and went from the second lap, so I had a bit work to do to keep the girls away. I knew that they were a little way behind me but there was still a chance something could happen.
“It was pretty good when I had about a kilometre to go knowing that, hopefully, I had done the job.
“I didn’t think we’d be back here with everything going on, it was uncertain whether it was going to go ahead, but yeah, I do love road nationals and I’m always up for a challenge. I love this course so it’s really great to be able to come out here and race and finish off the job.”
Gordon Allan 🥇 Men C2: “It was a tough race, definitely a tough race. It was a little bit unfortunate one of the main competitors, Darren Hicks, had a mechanical early on. It's between me and him, usually, and it's always a good challenge to race him, so it was a little bit unfortunate that he had a mechanical and he had to pull out early. But I had to stick to my race plan anyway and stick with the other guys.
“I did a bit more training coming back from Tokyo, a bit more road-specific training, and it was definitely a bit of a target here to go well in the TT and to go well in the road race. So, it's been a good week.”
Kevin O’Meley 🥇 Men B: “It’s been a hard week. They [Daniel Searle and Neil van der Ploeg] were pushing us hard to the finish. He’s a good competitor and I’m glad I get to race against him.
“It’s been a long time for me to get to this level. I’ve always wanted to race and it was only about two years [ago] that I teamed up with Richard for the tandems. We just clicked and we’re getting better all the time.”