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Canberra's Gracie Elvin defends national road cycling title in Ballarat

Canberra’s Gracie Elvin had promised to wear her Australian champion’s jersey to bed the night before the defence of her title, hoping to make the most of it.

Elvin need not have worried about relinquishing it so soon, the 25-year-old becoming the first woman in 20 years, since Olympic gold medallist Kathy Watt, to claim back-to-back road cycling titles at Ballarat on Saturday.

But Canberra’s chances of winning the men’s road race on Sunday are shaky, Michael Matthews in severe doubt with back spasms.

Elvin becomes only the fourth Australian woman to win the national title twice, the last being Canberra’s former world champion, Oenone Wood, in 2004 and 08.

In a ‘‘brave’’ ride and carrying bruises from a fall earlier in the week, Elvin fought back from being dropped on the final climb to win the 10-lap, 102-kilometre event in a bunch sprint.

‘‘I just dug deep the whole day ... I didn’t give up on myself,’’ the Orica-AIS rider said.


‘‘I knew I was one of the strongest sprinters and I sprinted as hard as I ever have in my life.

‘‘Some people might think I’m an overnight success, but I’ve been wanting this for a long time. I’ve been watching the Tour de France for as long as I can remember. It means a lot to me to see my dreams come true.’’

Elvin didn’t have such sweet dreams on the eve of the race, feeling the pressure of being defending champion.

She had promised to wear her Australian jersey to bed, but didn’t follow through because it was too uncomfortable.

Now she’s more than comfortable in it.

‘‘I owe this jersey to my teammates, we worked really well together today,’’ Elvin said.

‘‘I’ve been nervous the last few days, today on the start line I had butterflies and was a bit shaky. I didn’t have any pressure from anyone but myself. It’s the personal pressure that’s the hardest to deal with, so it’s a load off to come away with the win.’’

Watt, who won gold at the 1992 Olympic road race, claimed her consecutive national titles from 1992-94.

Asked if she could match Watt and make it three next year, Elvin said: ‘‘I’m not going to think about it yet, I don’t want to be greedy.’’

Elvin won from teammate Lauren Kitchen, with Katrin Garfoot third.

Canberra’s Matthews was considered a great chance in the men’s race on Sunday, the former under-23 world champion finishing second last year.

But he is now in doubt to ride at all.

Having sustained a back injury while preparing for the Tour Down Under, Matthews is giving himself until race morning to decide.

‘‘We’ll see if it comes back to life, but it’s not looking too good,’’ Matthews said.

‘‘I’m still debating whether I’m going to start. For now — yes — but tomorrow morning, maybe no.’’

‘‘If the race was [Saturday] I wouldn’t be racing. It’s a nerve injury, so any physio would make it go backwards. I just need to leave it and hope for the best.’’