She called it the “curse of fourth”. At last year’s Australian Road Nationals, Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco) finished just off the podium in both the time trial and the road race. She went on to take another seven fourth-place finishes for the year, all without taking a professional win.
In the first week of 2024, though, the 25-year-old Victorian seems to have broken that curse.
In Friday’s criterium she spent much of the race out front in a leading duo, before going it alone to win solo in commanding fashion. And in today’s road race, Roseman-Gannon led from the front again, spending a lot of time up the road before eventually winning in a reduced bunch sprint.
“I guess I just tried to be smart with my energy,” Roseman-Gannon said later of her multiple visits to the front of the road race. “Sometimes being off the front is less energy than trying to follow Sarah Gigante up the climb.”
The race started in rather pedestrian fashion, with only a few small moves getting away under grey skies. It wasn’t until Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) attacked on the sixth of nine ascents of Mt. Buninyong – just as dark clouds gave way to rain – that the action really started.
By the end of that lap, Roseman-Gannon was leading the race with Lauretta Hanson (Lidl-Trek) and former winner Nicole Frain. That group would swell at the top of the seventh ascent of Mt. Buninyong before, on the penultimate lap, Roseman-Gannon and Hanson again went clear, joining an aggressive Georgia Baker (Jayco AlUla) out front.
Roseman-Gannon, Baker, and Hanson led the race into the final lap but by the top of the final climb, the group had swollen once again. But yet again, in the back half of the course, Roseman-Gannon got away, this time with former winners Gigante and Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek) for company.
That trio looked to be riding towards a three-up sprint for victory, but a lull in the pace allowed the chasers to again join on from behind, and coming into the main street of Buninyong, it was a group of 11 that was contesting the win. When a patient Roseman-Gannon came off her teammate Amber Pate’s wheel and started her sprint, no one could come around her.
She doesn’t remember what she was thinking in those final kilometres. In fact, she doesn’t think she was thinking at all.
“I was just in flow state,” she said later. “It’s hard to get in that state, but when you’re there, it just happens and I don’t really know what I was thinking. But I kept saying ‘diamonds in the legs’ to myself, which is what my partner [Alistair Christie-Johnston] says a lot. And I felt like I had diamonds in my legs so yeah, I don’t know, I just had it today.”
Roseman-Gannon said the significance of winning hadn’t yet registered, but acknowledged that donning the green and gold has long been a goal.
“I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time,” she said. “I think I had a curse of fourth last year, but I’ve already broken it this year so yeah, I’m really, really excited. And I can’t wait to bring the jersey to Europe.”
Before making that journey, though, Roseman-Gannon will line up at the Santos Tour Down Under where she’ll get to debut the green and gold jersey in competition. After that, and after Cadel’s Race, she’ll make her way overseas to start the bulk of her season.
“I really want to target a big Classics block,” she said. “So I’ll do a combination of cobbled Classics and a couple of Ardennes. I think it suits my physiology and my riding style. And I think having two years in the peloton and bit more confidence to ride the bunch [and] now with the Australian jersey as well …”
And then there’s the small matter of the Olympics.
“I think about Paris a lot,” she said with a smile. “But yeah, I think one step at a time. The only thing I can do is be the best I can be, and if I am and it works out, it does. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Today, it certainly did work out. Her win returns the Australian champion’s jersey to Australia’s only Women’s WorldTour team for the first time in three years. It adds to a terrific week for the GreenEdge setup which swept the top four places in the elite men’s time trial, won the elite men’s criterium with Caleb Ewan, and swept the elite women’s criterium podium, led by Roseman-Gannon.
And for Roseman-Gannon, a rider who impressed so often in 2023 with her 12 top-five finishes, perhaps this is the start to 2024 that she needed. Perhaps we’ll look back on this, her first pro win, and realise it was an inflection point in an increasingly impressive career.
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