In the road race at the 2015 Oceania Championships AMR Renault was represented by a team of six with Dylan Sunderland, Matt Slee, Laurie Groom (all U23), Josh Aldridge, Aaron Watts and Cam Fraser (Elite) taking the start line. This is how Josh Aldridge saw things on his way to finishing 24th…
Conditions were calm by Toowoomba standards but with 142km and the temperature topping 30 degrees it was going to be a tough day in the saddle. Early in the race the peloton was nervous and it was very difficult to hold a good position near the front of the bunch. The team was caught out of position when an early break of seven riders escaped. With Avanti, Drapac and Budget Forklifts all content with the situation they blocked the road and the gap quickly extended to the 3-minute mark.
Into the second lap Data#3, who like us were not represented, set a good tempo on the front of the peloton and the gap came down to about 2 minutes. This suited AMR Renault and we rode well as a unit towards the front of the bunch, looking to stay out of trouble and conserve energy.
Midway through the 3rd lap some serious attacks started as legs were starting to tire. Then Drapac took control of the race and forced the pace. Soon after the feed zone a nasty crash took down five riders and split the peloton. Dylan was the only AMR Renault rider in the front bunch, the others all getting delayed by the crash. After a hard chase I made it across with a small group by the beginning of the final lap and after an even harder chase Matt also dragged himself back on.
At this point we realised that the original break was not going to be caught. But with only one U23 rider in the break, we knew Dylan had a good shot at a high finish. Coming into the hilly 2nd half of the final lap, Matt paid the price for his hard chase and lost contact with the bunch while I helped Dylan get near the front.
In the closing kilometers Dylan rode strongly and followed several moves which all came back together for a reduced bunch sprint. Dylan sprinted to 6th placed U23 (19th overall) only narrowly missing out on a podium. I came across the line in the same bunch in 24th Elite (36th overall). Matt and Aaron came across the line in 47th and 62nd place respectively. The hard conditions got to Cam and Laurie who had to abandon the race. Taylor Gunman took the Oceania title for Avanti Racing.
The race summed up a good weekend in Toowoomba for the AMR Renault Racing Team, gaining valuable experience racing together ahead of the upcoming NRS season.
Thanks to all the parents who did a superb job keeping the boys hydrated throughout the race. Without them we would all be dead on the side of the road!