The Australian national championships held in Ballarat, Australia, kicked off Thursday with the criterium races.
South Australian Alexis Rhodes (GreenEdge-AIS) won the women’s race, marking her fifth national victory and fourth criterium title.
Anthony Giacoppo (Genesys Wealth Advisers) from Western Australia won the elite men’s race, the best result of his career, over favorites Mark Renshaw from Rabobank and Steel von Hoff, the new rider for Garmin-Chipotle.
New South Wales resident Scott Law won the men’s under-23 race, and Melissa Hoskins won the women’s.
The women’s race marks a great comeback to racing for Rhodes, 27, who took six months off to recover from the same surgery Stuart O’Grady underwent to repair a blockage of the iliac artery, limiting blood flow to the legs.
“I had a lot of scar tissue there, so they had to open my stomach up, clean my artery out and make a little graft and sew it back together again,” said Rhodes, who saw the same surgeon as O’Grady.
Rhodes has London in sight, and is focusing her efforts this year on Olympic selection. For now, she says, “If I don’t win on Saturday, I really hope one of my teammates do,” Rhodes said. “Hopefully we can really dictate the race like we did tonight, but there are probably other people who have a lot of other ideas as well.”
Giacopo’s win was the best result of his career. “It’s a great way to start the weekend and a great way to start the season, so hopefully we can just build from here and keep going,” he said. “I got second last year, so we’ve always had it in our heads that this is the one race where you can go quite well.”
U23 champion Law said, “The title has been one of my big objectives especially with my track background and the speed work and I’ve been training quite hard for it. I definitely had high hopes but never thought I’d be up there holding the green and gold.”
Friday is a rest day. The championships will resume on Saturday with the U23 men’s road race and the elite and U23 women’s road races.