State teams are selected… Entries are closed… Tapers have begun…
There are over 90 entries in the JM17 category and over 50 in the JM15. Add in over 55 young ladies in the 15 and 17 categories and it’s shaping as a big junior road nats.
First up Friday is the ITT. A rolling dead out-and-back course that is likely to have a nasty cross wind – probably slightly helping one-way and hurting the other. Pacing is pretty important with a lot of the riders coming back in after the Shepparton Junior Tour, on the same course, reporting blowing up half-way home. The under-15’s have 10km, while the under-17’s must suffer for 15kms.
It looks like there are three standouts in the JM17’s with SA’s Liam Nolan, Vicrtoria’s Godfrey Slattery and WA’s Craig Wiggins looking strongest. Nolan and Slattery have had a ding-dong battle this year, each beating the other in the lead-up. It was Nolan who took the honours at the Shepparton Junior Tour, but only by a handful of seconds. While Wiggins, hidden away in the west, has outstanding performances in past Nationals including being the best placed first-year last year and beating all-comers to win the under-15 crown the year before in Wagga. Other notables likely to be in the mix include Mitch Wright, Riley Hart, Sebastian Berwick, Braden O’Shea, Cooper Sayers and Stephen Cuff.
In the under-17 women, big favourites for the ITT include WA’s Jade Haines, NSW’s Natasha Mullany, Emily Watts and Chloe Heffernan along with Queensland’s Alexandra Martin-Wallace. Throw in SA’s Maeve Moroney-Plouffe, Victorian’s Georgia O’Rourke and Sarah Gigante and Tassie’s Morgan Gillon and we’re set for a right old fight.
Favourites in the under-15 men include Shepperton JT winner and Track Champion-of-Champions, Graeme Frisle (VIC) along with NSW’s Will McClennon (who won his State title by 45-seconds over Luke Ensor). Throw in James Moriarty (QLD) who won the hotly contested Canberra JT along with Tasmanian Eddie Calvert and WA’s Sebastian Barrat and it’s probably the hardest age-category to pick the podium.
In the under-15 girls all eyes will be on SA’s Olivia Wheeler, a dominant winner in the ITT at the Shepp JT. Then look to Laura Berwick (ex-QLD now NSW), Amelia Miles (ACT), Chloe Hollingsworth (NSW) while the Bradbury sisters, Neve and Isla will fly the local hopes.
Day two sees the road races; interestingly run in the anti-clockwise direction. When run this way as a stage in past Shepp JT’s we’ve always seen a much reduced group finish compared to when the loop is run in a clockwise direction (as it was at this year’s Shepp JT). It seems to be a mix of the longer uphill drag and the wind. Let’s hope that’s the case as I don’t think many cycling parents would be looking forward to big bunch sprint finishes!
Favourites are probably the same as the above listed riders. Maybe throw in some good bunch races (those able to hold position) and fast finishers. It’ll be interesting to see how the the state team riders cope with riding as a team.
It’s probably worth looking at which teams are strong enough to actually benefit from racing as a team. In the JM17’s it’s SA, Victoria and perhaps NSW. If we see a strong rider from each of these teams in a break it may well be a good break to be in. If these three teams aren’t chasing then who will?
In the JW17’s NSW looks the strongest team although Haines is definitely the strongest individual rider. It is likely this will be more a race of attrition with the strongest girls contesting the finish. Keep an eye on Laura Jones (NSW) who has made a habit of winning road races this season.
In the JM15’s it’s a much more even contest. Also their smaller gears will make it hard for anyone of any significance to get away. The same can be said of the JW15’s, which it likely to again come down to a sprint from a small bunch.
The criterium is an interesting one. After last year’s super smooth flowing course in Toowoomba, which saw crashes aplenty, this course is hopefully slightly more selective. Being bumpier and narrower in places we won’t see riders six-wide like they were at Toowoomba, and the little pinch of a hill every lap will eventually have an effect on those just hanging on.
The ‘little pinch’ on the back straight of the DECA crit course. Not much to look at, but the legs will start hurting if the pressure comes on.
I think it’s a good move to reduce the number of finalists in the junior men’s categories – 36 for both, down from 50 in Toowoomba! With three heats for the JM17’s that’s just the top 12 getting through (while the top 18 get through from the JM15’s two heats).
Let’s hope there is a lot less carnage than last year where bodies and bikes were both broken across seven crashes in the criteriums. Good news is it’s logistically a very good place for a crit with lots of bitumen to set up your marquees etc.
DECA is blessed with good set-up and viewing options. Bring some shelter though if it’s sunny… or rainy!
Well, that’s about it. Kids: eat well, sleep well and make sure your bikes are all in tip-top shape; parents… do the same and remember to remind the kids it’s not about the results – there can only be one winner in each race – it’s about how they perform against their own goals going in. Safe travels and see you all in Shepparton.
PS> Long range weather forecasts look good – although this Victoria! Only downside is not much wind being forecast at this stage.