Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge has regained the Australian national road title, the 33-year-old topping a star-studded podium completed by Cadel Evans of BMC Racing and Team Sky's Richie Porte.
Gerrans first won the title in 2012, following that up the same month by winning the Tour Down Under then secured the biggest victory of his career in the white national champion's jersey with its green and gold stripes in March of that year, when he won Milan-San Remo.
Today in Buninyong, Gerrans, Evans and Porte were out front together with a second Orica-GreenEdge rider, Cameron Meyer, as the race entered its 18th and final lap of the 10.2km circuit that included an ascent of Mount Buninyong.
“It’s a huge honour to be crowned Australian champion again this year,” said Gerrans afterwards.
“It makes it even more special with such a classy field this year, it’s the who’s who of Australian cycling.
“To win in front of an Australian crowd like this and for an Australian World Tour team obviously is very, very special."
Gerrans had attempted to attack on the last ascent of Mount Buninyong but Evans, Porte and Meyer got back across to him on the descent.
The latter then attacked himself, to try and distance Evans and Porte and boost Gerrans' chances of victory, something the new champion acknowledged.
“I knew I had good legs [and] as long as we were all together, I was pretty confident I could win in that scenario,” Gerrans reflected.
“Cameron Meyer fully committed for me today, he rode his guts out there for me so it’s huge thrill to finish it off for the team.
“The plan was always to try and have it together for me in the last lap if the race was anyway under threat. The guys committed to that and brought it back together for me.
“This is a course that works quite well for me. I think it’s a really honest circuit and a great championship site. When you see the guys on the podium today, all three of us are competitive on the world stage,” he added.
Evans, twice national champion in mountain biking in the late 1990s but never on the road, said: “I feel as though everyone wants to be in the break without me and then in the final follow me.
"But today was my best opportunity and I wanted to attack with 150 metres to go but I left it a bit late.
“I just couldn’t accelerate anymore, I exhausted myself a bit too much early on."
He also commented on the atmosphere, saying: “People were out there with their flags and cowbells and whistling, it’s just like a race in Europe.
"Every year I think it’s a better quality race.”
Porte meanwhile said that Gerrans - who left Team Sky at the end of the 2011 season, just as he was arriving - was a worthy winner: “I’m happy to be on the podium and full credit to Simon,” Porte commented.
“When he attacked on the final climb he showed that he was head and shoulders the strongest rider in the race.
“If I had the legs I would have attacked a little bit earlier, but [Gerrans] is certainly in some great form.
“It is great to see so many people out there supporting Cadel and Gerrans and also myself, it is just absolutely brilliant.”
Gerrrans win capped a double victory on the road for the Orica camp this weekend; yesterday, the team's Gracie Elvin became the first woman in two decades to retain the national road championship.
Last week, the team had also dominated the men's elite time trial with a clean sweep of the podium, Michael Hepburn taking the victory ahead of 2013 champion Luke Durbridge and Damien Howson.
The women's elite time trial title, however, went elsewhere - it was won by Felicity Worklaw of Bicycle Superstore.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.