MARYBOROUGH rider Jay McCarthy sat in the shadow as Australian sprint sensation Caleb Ewan claimed the elite men's criterium at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
Ewan crossed the line in 1hr and 43secs to claim victory on the streets of Ballarat on Wednesday evening, ahead of 2014-15 winner Steele von Hoff, Victorian Brenton Jones and track star Nicholas Yallouris.
BORA-Hansgrohe's McCarthy rounded out the top five.
McCarthy entered the the RoadNats high on confidence after he won the Australian Open Criterium at Noosa last November.
A mechanical issue left the 25-year-old with only a couple of gears for half of the race, but the 2017 Tour de France debutant still managed to earn a close victory ahead of Sunshine Coast rider Ryan Cavanagh.
After that success, he told News Corp his aim was squarely on the Tour Down Under, which runs from January 13 to 21.
"At this stage I'll be going in as the GC (general classification) team leader again and in my team (Bora-Hansgrohe) I have some pretty big guys," he said.
There, he will be supported by teammate and world champion Peter Sagan, who, in September, became the first man to win three consecutive UCI World Road Championships.
New South Welshman Ewan was a hot favourite to claim his third-straight title, and he produced a near-flawless ride to get the job done.
His victory comes just 11 days before the start of the Tour Down Under, where Ewan will hope to emulate the record-setting achievements he set in 2017.
Fellow Fraser Coast product and Mobius BridgeLane rider Dylan Newbery recorded at DNF at Lap 36.
Rebecca Wiasak won the elite women's criterium, ahead of Sarah Roy and Kimberley Wells.