It was always up there as a strong possibility that Australia’s only Women’s WorldTour squad, Team BikeExchange, would take the elite women’s road race title at the 2021 Federation University Road National Championships but the rider they did it with, Sarah Roy, was a surprise to onlookers and the winner herself.
This was the Australian summer that, looking at the courses and records, we expected to see Grace Brown and Lucy Kennedy stepping up for the team. At the Santos Festival of Cycling, Brown was a favourite for the overall while the first ever Willunga climb for the women’s peloton was an option for Kennedy.
Then there was a time trial title that Brown could well reclaim and a national road race title the team was being handed on from Amanda Spratt, who remained in Europe. Only one of those possibilities came to fruition – the biggest prize of them all, the national road race title.
“I just didn’t expect this today. I didn’t come here to do this. It wasn’t my plan,” said Roy after her win. “I had no consideration of this whatsoever but I think that is what makes it so exciting and it makes it more emotional… I can’t believe it and it is definitely a dream. As a professional cyclist you want to win the national championships at least once in your career.”
Not that Roy, a consummate teammate that also has results in her own right, isn’t capable of the win. She did stand on the third place of the podium at the race two years ago.
“I think I’ve been written off just because I am a bigger rider and people seem to think I can’t get around this course and it is too hard for me. I probably couldn’t beat the climbers if I was in a group with climbers but you make the race your own,” said the 34-year-old rider, who had made it out in the early break before venturing out alone to win solo.
It’s just that, of any year she could have pulled it off, this is perhaps one of the most unlikely for her to become a winner of the 104.4km race, which included nine laps and nine climbs Mount Buninyong.
“I have been doing a little bit of track training and that is what I mean by not being super on form for such a long road race, over three hours, is not something that I have been doing a lot of in training,” said Roy.
In response to the question of whether that meant she was having a tilt at the Australian track team for the Tokyo Olympics, which has been hit by retirements, Roy said: “nothing to be confirmed with the track. It has been a great learning curve and it is definitely something that suits my physiology so it would be cool to see what happens with that.”
This year, though, one thing we can be assured of is that after winning the national jersey Roy will also be keen to show the green and gold stripes on the road.
The jersey was also not the only success for the team at Buninyong, with teammate Grace Brown leaping out of the group to bridge to Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo), who had been the final breakaway companion to stick with Roy. Brown, twice a podium finisher at the race, made it a one-two for Team BikeExchange.
“Once we got confirmation that she [Roy] was off the front we just sat in and followed the climbers attacks each lap and then coming into the final lap we knew that Sarah was pretty secure in her win so I thought that I would have a bit of a dig and see if I could get a spot on the podium,” said Brown.
“It is always nice to be up on the podium with your teammate. I’ve been third here twice so it is nice to increase that to a silver medal. Hopefully one year I can actually be on the top step but I am pretty stoked for my teammate to have won this today.”