The 2023 women’s race at the Australian National Championships was another classic. We saw Brodie Chapman take her first nationals victory after a solo break was successful. Behind her, the chase was never able to organise itself enough to close the gap and was destined to be racing for silver and bronze. Centred on Buninyong in Victoria, it used the same course we’ve seen in previous years where Nicole Frain took her victory last season. An 11km or so lap was tackled 9 times for a total of 103km. The key point is the ascent of the lower slopes of Mount Buninyong. It’s prefaced with another decent climb up away from the finish line which helps put the hurt on before the final major bit of climbing on the lap. From there, it’s a largely downhill run to the line but punctuated with rolling sections before a downhill sprint.
How the race unfolded
The early running was quiet. Ruth Corset quietly put together a bunch of QoM points on the Mount Buninyong climb, crossing the line 1st on 4 of the 9 ascents. We saw no early break and the bunch simply shed a few domestic-based riders at this point of the race. As we started to see a few more accelerations, the peloton got smaller with mainly just the big names known to the European peloton remaining. The first break that really stuck was by Georgie Howe of Jayco-AlUla and Lauretta Hanson of Trek Segafredo. The pair held off the peloton successfully until the penultimate lap where they were caught at the top of Mount Buninyong after a load of work by Grace Brown.
The key move came on the first part of the climb which Brodie Chapman led and put the hurt on. Her teammate Amanda Spratt chose to follow Lizzie Stannard when she dropped the wheel and let Brodie go and no other rider was able to close the now-created gap. As the chasers hesitated, Chapman gained 20 seconds. That was pulled back to around 15 at the top of Mount Buninyong as Grace Brown had to do the work once more. As they crested the climb, the chase hesitated again and this time the gap really blew out. Around 30-40 seconds was the gap and the advantage was with Chapman all of a sudden. The chasers started to attack each other and it was clear that the new Trek Segafredo rider was going to take a clear victory in the Australian National Championships road race.
The key moment
Brodie Chapman’s ascent of the Midland Highway to earn a gap sparked the winning breakaway. It started when Georgia Baker made a move through the finish line and up onto the first part of the climb. She almost instantly went kaboom and dropped back, now empty. Chapman’s chase effort saw her on the front of the bunch, powering it up the climb. In real time I thought this was setting up an attack for Amanda Spratt but that swiftly changed. Lizzie Stannard in 2nd wheel couldn’t match the pace and Amanda Spratt in 3rd spot let go of the wheel and suddenly there was a decent gap. Chapman did the climb’s segment in her quickest time of the day at 3:37.
For the 10 minutes from the base of the climb near the finish line, Chapman averaged 296 watts at a Normalised Power of 305 watts. That shows a generally consistent level effort, with the 10w difference between the average and NP coming early on when her effort was harder and a dip late on from a brief downhill.
The full effort lasted 17 minutes and 40 seconds and naturally includes the nice bit at the end where her arms were in the air celebrating already. The average watts dropped slightly to 278 watts and a NP of 290. The rolling terrain meant that there were periods to rest on the descent but then big drops of power needed to accelerate out of corners and keep the speed up. Brodie Chapman’s FTP is currently set at 281w on Strava, so an effort like this is a well-measured but full-gas one. She would’ve had to hit 295w over 20 minutes to match the 281w of her FTP but she wasn’t too far away from those numbers. All the more impressive given this was at the tail-end of a 100km+ race rather than an actual test, this is the sign of great legs on the day.
The heart rate line is worthy of note as well. It’s remarkably constant. So whilst we can see the power is consistent on the climbs early on, it starts to jump around all over the place as other road features dictate. Bar a couple of dips on the descents, the HR stays very very close to the average of 185bpm over the 17:40 period. The data figures are interesting to compare to the publicly published data of Brodie Chapman from the 2019 Tour of the Gila that she won. The improvements between 2019 and 2023 are noticeable and quite large. Especially as the 2019 figures are over 5 stages compared to just 1 at the Aussie National Championships this year. If you want to do some w/kg calculations, the public data from 2019 works out at 58kg but you would have to risk asking Brodie what weight to use in 2023.
|Time Periods||2019 Watts||2023 Watts|
Lauretta Hanson & Georgie Howe’s breakaway
The only break of the day came from Lauretta Hanson and Georgie Howe and it didn’t start where you might have expected it to. We’d had to wait for 65km for a move that actually stuck but most of that was spent without any moves. Hanson and Howe were at the front of the peloton around the part of the lap that saw the peloton go through Federation University. The pair just managed to corner that bit quicker than those following and got a small gap. Around another corner and the gap grew a little bit more and both riders knew it was on. The start of Lauretta Hanson’s power for the move has a couple of spikes but it’s not as big an effort as you might think. A peak 1-second power of 895w at that point but after that, it settles into a nice consistent rhythm where the parcours allowed.
Hansons’ turn up the Midland Highway after the finish line was near enough perfectly flat on 296w average at 4.2 w/kg for 4 minutes 15 seconds. Not necessarily world-beater figures on a climb but perfect for that situation and driving the move on. The second effort of the climb up Mount Buninyong was a similar effort. 3 minutes 24 seconds at 287w average and 4.1 w/kg. These figures dipped for the next ascent on the following lap. The Midland Highway section was 8 seconds slower at 283w and 4 w/kg. The figures for the final section before getting caught are different though as Lauretta Hanson found herself responding to attacks from Georgie Howe to stave off the inevitable catch by a Grace Brown-led peloton. You can see the spikes clearly at the end of the below capture on the purple line. They did the climb in a time of 3 minutes and 9 seconds, 307w average at 4.4 w/kg but it was not enough to prevent them from being caught. I’d love to see the power that Brown was putting out in this phase of the race because it definitely had an impact when chasing down Brodie Chapman later on. Unfortunately, we’ve no data from Georgie Howe to compare breakaway efforts.
With the breakaway lasting 34:13, Hanson averaged 234w at 3.3 across that time. The goals were achieved for the Trek Segafredo contingent in the move. It isolated Jayco-AlUla a little bit more by using up Georgie Howe who clearly had good form. Behind them, the likes of Alyssa Polites, Jess Allen and Amber Pate were all either gone or about to go from the group. Alex Manly had struggled her way back to the front group already and by the final lap, Georgia Baker was toast too. It left Roseman-Gannon isolated going into the final stages of the race. It also helped to soften up the threat of Grace Brown. She spent most of the time the break was out ahead on the front of the chase and did so much work to pull it back. We’ll never know if with these matchsticks still available, whether she might’ve bridged over to Brodie Chapman but she certainly would’ve had a better chance.
Could Jayco-AlUla have won the Australian National Championships?
A lot was made of the chances of Ruby Roseman-Gannon again this season. She’s already a 2-time winner in 2023 at the Bay Crits and with the numerical advantage her team should in theory have an easier ride to put their star into the lead position going into the finish. Trek Segafredo only had 3 riders compared to Jayco-AlUla’s 7 but really made them count and didn’t make a wrong move. Jayco-AlUla seemed to suffer from maladies and not peak form from some of its riders in comparison. It also felt that maybe they stuck too rigidly to their race plan.
They had the right leader in Roseman-Gannon certainly. Where the plan appeared to crumble was the moment Jess Allen appeared to cramp up and also Alex Manly just not having the legs on the day. Allen had manoeuvred her way to the front of the pack and looked game for an attack up the Midland Highway. All of a sudden she was just seemingly unable to pedal and had to drop back after reaching for the inside of her thigh.
Georgia Baker took up the reins and the goal was clearly to reduce the size of the front group. At the turn, the group was down to around 20 riders with 4 Jayco-AlUla riders still in there. A further split occurred and it was just Roseman-Gannon and Manly at the front in a group of 8 riders now. Spratt and Stannard attacked which kept the pressure up and forced Georgie Howe to do the chase whilst Amber Pate rejoined the group. With the catch made, that set up the Howe and Hanson move discussed above.
The move felt right at the time, Roseman-Gannon and Manly looked ok. Pate and Baker were struggling a little to get back to the front group so the theory that Howe going would help them save their legs made sense. It’s just ultimately, there wasn’t much done with those refreshed legs. Pate used an effort to chase a bridging move from Lizzie Stannard. Manly used one up herself having to break and slow to avoid the Ruth Corset crash. She lost all her speed on a fast corner and had some closing work to do with Amber Pate but both got back in.
The Georgia Baker move heading over the finish as the bell rang felt like a waste. It was a big sprint to establish a gap but then once the climb started, she clearly hit the end of her energy reserves and went backwards fast and out of the group. She’d not really done chasing jobs up until this point and probably was earmarked to be part of the sprint train for Roseman-Gannon with Alex Manly. So to sprint around to no avail is either a recognition that she wasn’t going to get up the full climb in the lead group or a pre-planned move that was executed despite the legs not being there to pull it off. If it was a bluff attack then all it did was set up the winning move by Brodie Chapman. Part of me also wonders if she thought it was the finish and was a sprint for the ‘win’.
Amber Pate was gone by this point and despite Manly initially sitting 3rd wheel in the ideal spot she was unable to hang on and began to lose contact with the front group under the impact that Chapman’s pace had. That left a group of 9 at the front of the race and only Ruby Roseman-Gannon there for Jayco-AlUla, their numerical advantage up in smoke against 2 Trek Riders (Spratt in the group + Chapman ahead) and even a pair of Zaaf Cycling riders too. This crucial part of the chase still could’ve seen the group pull back Chapman but after checking where her teammates were, Roseman-Gannon attacked the group to mark Stannard but wasn’t prepared to go deep enough. When she flicked the elbow, Brown attacked and any cohesion in the chase was destroyed and handed the victory to Chapman.
If you were running the race again with what is known now, you’d have to say the order of the riders and their application ended up being wrong. Georgie Howe was clearly strong and should’ve been saved until later with the Manly/Roseman-Gannon combination. Baker and Pate then could’ve been used up doing a job in the chase rather than being saved to just drift out of the group. The form of Alex Manly seemed to be where the plan failed. An in-form Manly would’ve held the wheel of Chapman or certainly been closer to doing so and negated the gap that move got. From there, Ruby Roseman-Gannon would’ve been the big favourite and things probably would’ve worked out.
I can’t help but look at the podium and wonder as well. Amanda Spratt played a key role as a roving road captain for the Trek riders and was able to race instinctively, quickly making the right calls. If she was still on the Jayco-AlUla team this season, it feels like that might have made the difference. She would’ve marked the winning move and either won herself from a small group or pulled it back for Ruby in the end. The relatively inexperienced Jayco-AlUla team desperately needed someone like Spratt on their side to paper over some of the cracks they showed this year.
Main Photo Credit: Con Chronis/AusCycling