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It was a course that forced splits early yet it still came down to a tight battle to the line in both the men’s and women’s races at the very first RADL GVL gravel race in South Australia.
Brodie Chapman (Lidl-Trek) won a three way battle in the women’s race while Tasman Nankervis (BMC Shimano) took victory from the leading trio in the men’s race.
Nankervis forced long-time rival Brendan ‘Trekky’ Johnston (Giant) to lead out the sprint as the duo headed toward the McLaren Flat finish line, nestled among the grapevines of a winery, and he got to throw his hands up in the air in celebration this time.
“I just had a day that you just hope for every race, it just felt like I had no chain on today. Very good feelings and it was awesome to get the win,” Nankervis said.
Adam Blazevic, winner of two UCI Gravel World Series rounds, tailed off to take third, having had to spend a little too much energy chasing back to the front two so not having enough left in the legs to take them on in the sprint.
Chapman is the 2023 Australian road race champion and she won the women’s race by darting across the line ahead of 2022 national title holder, Nicole Frain (HESS Cycling) while Heidi Franz (Lifeplus Wahoo) came third.
All three of the podium placers had just wrapped up racing at the three-day Women’s Tour Down Under on Sunday, and Chapman and Franz also raced the Down Under criterium Thursday evening.
“We can all feel it in our legs but it was a really good event and pretty stoked to take the win,” said Chapman.
The RADL GVL race was held alongside the WorldTour racing at the Tour Down Under, further enhancing the ten days of racing in South Australia.
The 108 km route included 2048m of elevation gain and barely a sniff of paved roads.
The riders rolled out in crisp conditions early on Friday morning. Warm puffer jackets were the feature pre-start rather than the ice vests that have been prevalent at the men’s and women’s WorldTour road races but it wasn’t long before the sun broke through, heating up the spectators while temperature also quickly rose within the race.
Chapman, a Women’s WorldTour racer with an off road background, went out solo early in the race but then “heard there was a group coming behind with a bunch of the strongest girls.”
That group of six also included Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM) – one of the race partners along with Valtteri Bottas, and Amy Charity.
That group then split in a sandy section, leaving the trio to decide the podium positions between them on the run into the line, with Chapman claiming the top prize.
The first climb of the day, just three kilometres into the race also blew apart the men’s race, with a group of six riders getting clear.
“There were a lot of steep climbs early on and coming from a mountain bike background that is something that suits me really well,” said Nankervis.
“I kind of kept thinning it out in those steep climbs then we got through a group of four of us on the second and main climb half way through and we just cooperated really well.”
That group then dropped to three, and Nankervis played it to perfection.
Nankervis raced in the United States and as part of the Life Time Grand Prix series last year. He has been selected for the series in 2024 but hasn’t yet been able to find the additional sponsors he needs to cover the financial expenses of another season overseas.
“The last few months I’ve been dealing with trying to find sponsors and basically nothing has come up so maybe I had a little bit of frustration built up and could release it today,” Nankervis told Cyclingnews.
At least on Friday there was more than the pure satisfaction of a win to celebrate. The RADL GVL race delivers a hefty prize purse, with AUD$3000 for each of the race winners and a total to be shared out of AUD$10,000.