O’Brien and Pate win first National Criterium Elite titles at Ballarat Road Nats

Thousands of fans flocked to the Ballarat CBD to see the Criterion, while two first-time winners claimed national titles. Find out how Team Jayco-AlUla dominated opening day.

It may be a new year and a new name for Team Jayco-AlUla, but the professional team still knows how to win and claims both elite criteria on day one of the Road Nationals in Ballarat.

In front of thousands of fans around town, in perfect racing conditions, Melbourne’s Kelland O’Brien won his first national title in the men’s elite criterium, while Amber Pate did the same in the women’s.

O’Brien, who is from Kew, was one of nine riders who broke away early in the race and was never caught by the peloton.

During the 44-lap race of the 1.1km track at Sturt St, the nine drivers went to a margin of more than 45 seconds, which was the lead for several laps.

With eight laps to go, the breakaway was given the right to retire without the peloton catching up to them, who were instructed to complete three more laps and finish, leaving the breakaway to struggle for the last five laps.

On the final lap, O’Brien set up Brisbane teammate Blake Quick for victory but held on as Quick was unable to catch the 24-year-old.

Quick finished second in a Team Jayco-AlUla double win.

“I can’t really believe it, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said.

“I am very happy about the win.

“The tailwind helped get out today and somehow I had a couple of legs to hold on to in the last 150m.”

O’Brien now has a title in the National Elite Criterion to complement his U23 success as of 2020.

He won the U23 race in a similar fashion, winning in a breakaway.

“I have great memories here and I love coming to Ballarat,” he said.

“I’m very hungry for a good weekend and I’m so happy that I started the 2023 season with a win.”

When O’Brien and Quick crossed the finish line, both were thrilled to deliver such a result for the team.

“I still can’t believe I crossed the finish line first, I was all in for Blake,” he said.

“When you’re out there with your teammates, it’s amazing to share something.

“As long as someone in our jersey wins, it’s a big win for the team.”

In the women’s, Northern Territory rider Amber Pate made a dream debut by winning the criterium in her first race with Team Jayco AlUla.

Pate attacked on the final lap of the 38-lap race with Roxsolt Liv SRAM rider Matilda Field, gaining an advantage over the peloton as they all crossed the start and finish line for the last time.

The 27-year-old held off a fast-finishing teammate Alexandra Manly, who sprinted away from the peloton to finish second.

Field finished third as her load fell short.

“I’m really proud,” Pate said.

“It was such a brilliant team ride, all the girls.

“We all stuck to the plan and that’s where the win came from.”

Pate owes the win to her teammates’ aggressive tactics.

Team Jayco AlUla sent several girls up front throughout the race to create breakaways and try to tire the peloton.

The original hope was to set it up for their sprinters.

But Pate, who also lived and studied in South Australia during her cycling career, had other ideas.

She won her first race for her new team since signing with them last August, just a few years after fully committing to the sport.

“It was a day that revealed a lot of different things,” she said.

“In the final laps we were ready to make it to the sprint.

“I wanted to make sure I cover (all the breaks).

“When Tilly (Matilda Field) went into the final lap, I wanted to make sure that I would be there afterwards.

“I looked back and there was a big gap and made sure I was making the right decisions to give the team the win.

“It happened by accident.”

In the day’s other results, Graeme Frislie won the Men’s Under-23 Criterium title while Lucinda Stewart won the Women’s Under-23 tournament.

The national road races continue on Saturday and Sunday with all age group road races in Buninyong.

Originally published as

https://www.codesports.com.au/cycling/powerhouse-team-surge-to-criterium-wins-at-ballarat-road-nats/news-story/21e4df1602896369f365576bc8d030b7?nk=4258fd73fba476c7976eab8ac4f3d7fd-1673017749 O’Brien and Pate win first National Criterium Elite titles at Ballarat Road Nats

Ryan Sederquist

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