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Racing for the sack of potatoes, a homemade cardigan and a national title

Gravel racing prizes aren’t exactly known for being conventional and Tasmania’s Devils Cardigan is no exception. Forget the shiny trophy with the name of the latest victor proudly engraved on a plaque, that won’t keep you warm as the post-race celebrations rage on through the cold Tasmanian winter’s night – the wooly cardigan with the name of each winner sewn on it will and the sack of potatoes the rider on the top step of the podium gets will help fuel many more rides.

Still, a second year of hosting the Australian Gravel National Championships means the unconventional prizes will again be accompanied by one of the most traditional and coveted of awards across the disciplines of cycling, the title of national champion 

Sherwell may be one of the top favourites alongside defending champion Barrow –who last month claimed victory at both the SEVEN UCI Gravel World Series round in Nannup Western Australia and Gravel Locos in the United States – but there are plenty of others that could also mount a challenge. They include Western Australian Cassia Boglio, who claimed victory at the Life Time Sea Otter Classic and came second to Barrow at SEVEN. Ella Bloor and Izzy Flint, who was second to Sherwell at the marathon national championships, could also make a mark.

Sens will also have his work cut out for him as the rider from Bendigo attempts to defend his title in the men’s race. Johnston is among the biggest challengers, with the Canberran now building gravel momentum as he settles into his second season of the Life Time Grand Prix, where he finished seventh last year and is currently sitting fifth on the leaderboard. Johnston has had a strong start to the season, also sweeping up victory at the Nannup Gravel World Series event and claiming a sixth marathon national title on the mountain bike.

Then there is a long list of other potential rivals, from the 2022 Devils Cardigan winner Tasman Nankervis, who won the first edition of RADL GRVL in January, to Adam Blazevic who burst onto the gravel scene with multiple UCI Gravel World Series race wins in 2022 and Sutton Grange Gravel winner Mark O’Brien who also claimed the prestigious Melbourne to Warrnambool on the road this year. 

The array accomplished riders from across the disciplines may make it hard to pick a winner but the depth of the field and course conditions mean that it should certainly be a hard-fought and quick edition of the race.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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