January 14, 2008
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The 2008 title was always going to be a hotly contested affair with places on the 2008 Olympic team on the line, add to this a stella field, and a challenging circuit and you will gain some idea of the excitement at Ballarat yesterday.
A break of 12 riders got clear during the second lap of the sixteen lap163.2km race, this group worked well together and extended their lead to more than six minutes over the peloton. With two laps left three of the original twelve were still leading, many of the thousands of fans lining the course thought that Scott Davis (Highroad), Robert Hodgson (Northern Sydney CC), and Nathan Jones (TBE Brooks) would hang on to win.
The real action however was coming out of the main bunch behind the leaders. During the second half of the race the cream rose to the top, as the stars of Australian cycling started to show their cards. Vicious attacks out of the peloton saw the main field reduced to less than twenty from the 120 strong field.
Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) and William Walker (Rabobank) were among the riders who jumped clear of the main bunch in purist of the leaders, but it was Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) who had the patience and the legs to take the win. Lloyd kept his cool during the attacks of Walker and the like knowing that the longer he waited the stronger he would be. Lloyd made his move with four laps to go in solo pursuit of the leaders, each lap he tock minutes out of their advantage and caught them with two laps remaining. Not wanting to risk a sprint finish he rode straight past, the three leaders who were unable to match his pace after leading the race for more than three hours. Lloyd completed the final two laps on his own to finish the race as the clear winner, ahead of Adam Hansen (High Road) and Rory Sutherland (HealthNet – Maxxis) who also road well to overtake Davis, Hodgson and Jones to finish second and third respectively.
Lloyd said that he was lucky to escape from the favorites when he did. However the Buninyong circuit ensures that every winner is a deserved one. This challenging course is packed with kilometers of ascending, technical descents and usually strong cross winds, it guarantees good hard racing.
This makes Buninyong a great circuit for spectators who are able to stand at arms length from the riders as they battle up Mt. Buninyong, giving a great prospective of how hard the riders are pushing their bodies. With the riders coming past every fifteen minutes there is plenty of action.