What started out almost as an accidental breakaway turned into a stunning national road title for Australian cycling star Cameron Meyer.
Adding another chapter to his already-impressive career, the 24-year-old stayed away by himself for nearly three quarters of the elite men’s criterium on Thursday evening in Ballarat.
The six-time world track champion used the consistent pace that has made him such a deadly points and madison rider on the boards to stay clear of the peloton and achieve an outstanding solo win.
“That wasn’t exactly my tactic – it was to open up my legs and have a bit of a hitout,” he said.
“No-one wanted to come with me, so I just kept going.
“The first thing I thought was ‘I skipped the time trial yesterday, but I’m doing one now’.
“I was a bit confused with what I was actually doing.
“My main thing was … when you’re in that situation, is to hold the same momentum.”
Meyer and his brother Travis made solo attacks early in the race, wanting to keep the pace high.
The goal was to try to set up a final bunch sprint for Orica-GreenEDGE teammate Leigh Howard.
But Cameron’s show of strength turned the race on its head and Steele Von Hoff outsprinted Howard for the silver medal, 16 seconds behind.
Meyer had intended to use the criterium only as a warm-up for Sunday’s road race, his main priority at the nationals.
The 2011 Tour Down Under winner bypassed Wednesday’s time trial, an Australian title Meyer has won twice.
Meyer was up at 4am on Thursday morning for the flight from Perth and he only arrived in Ballarat about three hours before the criterium started.
“Sunday is a big priority for me … I am really hungry for (the) road title,” he said.
“(Thursday’s win) has given me a lot of confidence … that I was able to maintain the same speed out there, maintain some strong temp and stay away.”
Last year, Meyer also launched a solo break to lead the championships road race, but spectacularly cracked.
“Hopefully I don’t have a repeat of last year – I will be stuffing my face with enough food,” he said.
Meyer, who agonised before ruling himself out of last year’s Olympic track team, is scheduled to ride the Giro d’Italia this year.
He is yet to make his Tour de France debut.
“We’ll have to wait and see, but I’d love to ride the (100th) Tour de France, that would be a dream come true,” he said.
Meyer’s win is the third national title this week for GreenEDGE, following Luke Durbridge and Shara Gillow in the elite time trials.
Also on Thursday, rising star Kimberley Wells outsprinted Loren Rowney to win the women’s elite criterium and Gracie Elvin was third.
Bradley Linfield and Emily Roper won the under-23 criterium titles.