Pate surprises in road nationals criterium

Amber Pate has emerged as the shock winner of the national criterium title at the Australian road cycling championships in Ballarat, stealing the limelight from her star teammates.

Kell O'Brien stormed home to take out the men's race from another Jayco AlUla rider, Blake Quick, making it a quinella in both races for the powerhouse team.

Australian sprint ace Caleb Ewan, who has won stages in the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, was forced to withdraw mid-race with a stomach bug.

Making her debut with the Jayco AlUla team, Pate was expected to do the grunt work to help set up the likes of defending champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon, another former winner Jessica Allen or Olympian Alex Manly.

But the 27-year-old, who only turned pro last year, found herself at the front of the sprinting pack at the right time to claim the victory.

Manly finished second with Matilda Field, riding with Roxsolt Liv SRAM, taking the bronze medal.

Field's teammate, the 2020 winner and a pre-race favourite Chloe Hosking, was fourth while Roseman-Gannon, who won this week's three-stage Bay Crits in Geelong, crossed the line sixth.

The Jayco AlUla riders put pressure on throughout the 35 laps of the 1.1 kilometre street circuit with their ultra-aggressive tactics keeping the field on their toes.

Pate, who grew up in Katherine in the Northern Territory, was elated with the win, and her WorldTour teammates were equally ecstatic.

"That was such a surprise," Pate told reporters.

"We really stuck to the plan, which wasn't for me, but we stuck to the plan to make the race aggressive and I feel so privileged to be a part (of it) with these girls.

"I was working really hard for them but it was at the end when Tilly (Matilda Field) did a really great attack and I was following, just to make sure it came down to a sprint for the girls.

"I came around the corner and I was like, 'Oh, we've got a gap' and I had to make the decision there ... I gave it my best.

"It's a bit of a fluke today, and I just feel really grateful."

The men's race played out quite differently, as a group of nine riders broke away from the peloton about two-thirds of the way through with Jayco AlUla speedster Callum Scotson and Ryan Cavanagh (Kinan Racing Team) leading the charge.

O'Brien unleashed with about 150 metres to go, leading out for his teammate Quick but edging him on the line to take the title.

Taj Jones, riding with Israel Premier Tech, finished third.

O'Brien, 24, was part of Australia's bronze-medal winning outfit in the team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics.

He also finished second in the national road race in 2021.

"I can't believe it - hats off to Callum (Scotson), he was an absolute motorbike today," the Victorian said.

"We executed a good race together and I really wasn't expecting to hang on to the finish line but it opened up on the corner and I somehow found the legs."