Saving Grace for Orica-AIS
Gracie Elvin wins the elite women's road race. Photo: John Veage
CANBERRA rookie Gracie Elvin has come to the rescue of Orica-AIS, winning the national road cycling championship for the powerful Australian women's team.
Just 12 days into Elvin's professional career, the 24-year-old Oceania road champion answered the call when it appeared the race was slipping from her new team's grasp.
She won the 106.6-kilometre race at Buninyong, near Ballarat, by half a wheel length from Victorian Joanne Hogan.
Gracie Elvin with her medal. Photo: John Veage
Those are career-best results for Elvin and Hogan.
Former winner Carla Ryan was third, ahead of Miranda Griffiths.
There was some pain for Elvin along with the immense pleasure of the win as she slipped and fell heavily as she left the victory podium, bruising her left wrist.
''I'm not really living up to my name - I'm not very graceful on the podium,'' she later joked.
While it was a great win for Orica-AIS, team director Dave McPartland admits it was not a great day for the women's section of the GreenEDGE monolith.
GreenEDGE has now won four of the five senior titles at these nationals and is favourite to win the men's elite road race on Sunday.
''I'm not going to lie about it - there were a couple of times during the race where I wasn't comfortable,'' McPartland said.
''It wasn't our best race and that's why Gracie's win is even more impressive.
''She took a big weight on her shoulders. She is heading to the top really quickly, a lot quicker than what a lot of the other girls do.''
The race had opened with Elvin's teammate Jessie MacLean joining Lisa Jacobs, Lucy Coldwell and Rebecca Werner in a break that lasted for well over half the race.
Soon after they were caught, Ryan, Hogan and Griffiths broke clear.
It was at that point McPartland yelled from the side of the road to his riders in the peloton for someone - anyone - to join the leaders.
''I just screamed we had to have presence in that group … we let our guard down a little bit,'' McPartland said. ''Gracie was the one who reacted straight away.''
Elvin took several kilometres to bridge the 30-second gap to the leaders and then played her cards perfectly on the last 10-kilometre lap.
She used as little energy as possible, knowing she had the best sprint of the four title contenders.
But Elvin only just won the sprint, with Hogan pressing hard at the finish.
''Halfway through the race, I was getting a little bit down on myself,'' she said.
''I wasn't feeling that great. Then with two laps to go on the hill I just went 'oh well, here we go, see how far I can get it'.''
Emily Roper won the women's under-23 title while fellow Queenslander Jordan Kerby won the 137-kilometre men's under-23 road race. AAP