Chloe Hosking continued her hot start to the season by overcoming treacherous conditions at the road cycling championships in Ballarat.
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A perimeter fence on the front straight blew down in strong winds on Friday and caused a crash during the under-19 women’s criterium. It left Mildura’s Chelsea Symons nursing a suspected broken collarbone and delayed the rest of the schedule in persistent rain.
The dramas, combined with fading light, forced the combined elite and under-23 women’s to be reduced from 40 laps to 30.
Hosking cornered badly and lost speed around the final turn, but fought back on the final uphill sprint to claim her first national criterium title. The 29-year-old crossed the line centimetres ahead of rising star Ruby Roseman-Gannon, who claimed the under-23 crown, and Gracie Elvin.
“I was pretty certain I had it,” Hosking said. “I actually didn’t feel any pressure because I came in as an individual rider, so whatever I got was great. But I really did want to win the jersey this year because I’m racing in the States. They have a lot of criteriums there and I really wanted to take the green and gold and show it off there. I’m super proud that I can now do that.”
Meanwhile, Australian track stars Sam Welsford and Kelland O’Brien displayed their versatility on the road by defying treacherous conditions to win the men’s Australian criterium titles.
Seventeen riders pulled out of the elite men’s race before the start on Friday as persistent rain made life difficult for competitors. West Australian rider Welsford came over the top of fellow pre-race favourite Kaden Groves to claim the elite men’s green and gold jersey, with Ballarat local Nick White third.
Welsford broke clear on the uphill final sprint after negotiating a tricky last turn near the front of a bunched peloton on a slippery surface. O’Brien claimed the under-23 men’s criterium national title from Conor Leahy and Matthew Rice.
The fall that put Symons out of the under-19 women’s event left several other competitors with minor injuries.
The race was neutralised and restarted about 20 minutes later, with seven laps remaining, after sponsors’ signage was removed from the fence.
Dubbo’s Hayley Fuller eventually claimed the green and gold jersey. In her first year racing with the under-19s, said she had never been involved in a crash of that magnitude and described it as a scary experience.
“Around the halfway point I made an attack and there was five of us off the front,” Fuller said on Friday. “Once we turned the corner a gust of wind knocked the barriers and two girls made it through. It hit me and the other two girls went over the fence. I saw it coming and there was nothing really you could do about it.”
Rain was still falling at the restart, but the wind had eased enough to convince officials it was safe to continue.
“At the start line they said there was only two girls that made it through the barriers that were starting,” Fuller said. “And that got me a little bit nervous that I wasn’t going to get back up there, but we had a talk with the commissaries and it all worked out fine.”