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Dawson dazzles as lead changes
By Jeff Jones
22 year old Brent Dawson won today's stage 14 of the Commonwealth Bank Cycle Classic, a 102 kilometre circuit race in Canberra. The race was dominated by an eight rider breakaway that established itself very early. Second placed Julian Winn missed it, as did race leader Grzegorz Wajs. However, Wajs' teammate Dariusz Wojciechowski made the cut and took over the overall lead, with Aussie Scott Suckling (Glen Parker-Fondriest) moving into second.
The race was animated by an early attack from Graeme Brown and Dariusz Wojciechowski, who attacked on the very first lap to establish a 20 second lead. With Wojciechowski so close behind Julian Winn on the classification, it was up to the Dupont team to chase, and they did for about three laps before self destructing. Winn was forced to watch Wajs, and Illingworth was left on his own to try and close the gap, with the rest of the peloton not in a great hurry.
On the fifth lap, a group of five bridged up to the leaders: Brown's NSWIS teammate Ben Brooks, Cameron Jennings (Peugeot), Ben Day and Thomas Buchacek (Bates Bikes) and Brent Dawson (QANTAS). The seven made the 20 second gap into a minute, and things were looking bad for Julian Winn, with Wojciechowski comfortably in the yellow jersey position.
The situation remained the same until lap 15, when Scott Suckling (Glen Parker-Fondriest and 4th on GC) amazingly crossed the one minute gap on his own, with a Pole, Dariusz Skoczylas on his wheel. That effectively sealed the race for Winn as the gap grew out to nearly three minutes. Buchacek was dropped after his bidon cage broke and there were eight riders in the lead. On the final lap, Wajs even attacked to take 15 more seconds out of the hapless Winn, who had no-one left to chase down breaks.
Up front, Graeme Brown was still hanging in there, and arguably had the best chance for the win, although Dawson had impressed in last night's criterium. However, the early attack and the sharp climbs had taken the edge off him as the leaders started their final sprint for the line. Dawson had his measure all the way, as Brown switched from the right hand side to the left to try and gain an advantage. All this did was lead to a relegation to seventh place after he was found by the commissaires to have "deviated from his line".
This, combined with an extra $100 fine for pulling the jersey of a rider (Cameron Jennings) on the 19th lap, made a potential glory day into an utter disaster. Brown had words with the Chief commissaire, Mike Victor and his team manager Gary Sutton, after which a furious Sutton said "If that's your attitude, you're out of the race!"
Later, after a meeting between Sutton and Brown, he was asked whether he was still in the race. "If I want to be yeah." Do you want to be? "Yeah I do actually."
The stage belonged to Brent Dawson, who rode superbly despite being in some distress after yesterday morning's stage. It is well known that Dawson and Brown do not get along, despite being on the Olympic training squad together this year (Brown was selected, Dawson wasn't).
"I'm relieved more than anything. I just ran out of legs near the end and had to look after myself. I felt good the whole day. I knew the course would suit me."
The Poles and Suckling did a lot of work for their GC places. "It played into my hands because I didn't have to do too much work out there. I just had to get over the hill on each lap and recover. It's the kind of circuit where you can get away and stay away. It's like Centennial Park."
The final 200 metres have already been mentioned, but "I was going straight past him so it doesn't matter. I'm pretty happy about it," said Dawson after he chalked one up on his rival.
"The Poles rode really well but the ride of the day was Scott Suckling who came across while the other Pole got a free ride."
Scott Suckling certainly rode well - good enough to put him into second overall on GC with two stages left. The 22 year old did it with only two teammates left in the race: Eddie Hollands and Hilton McMurdo. However, they were completely committed and Suckling knew he could count on them.
When he was bridging the gap, he had Skoczylas on his wheel and the Pole would not of course do a turn. "He was giving me the shits but in a sense it made me ride a bit stronger because I could see him grimacing a bit so I knew he wasn't too comfy. By the same token I could see myself gaining every kilometre...I was hoping to draw the others out, put the poms under a bit of pressure because they were losing a lot of their team."
After he made it across, he kept going to try and cement his second place overall. "I'm not the best climber in the race and I was hurting a bit on the uphill section but on the downhill section I couldn't push a big enough gear - I felt really, really strong," he said.
Now at a minute and a half behind Wojciechowski, he has an academic chance of winning the race. On his time trial skills: "I've done about 20 kilometres in time trials in the last four years, and they've all been on the track, so it's going to be interesting," he said. "It's been all new to me this year as I come from a track background. I've done about three days racing since April, but a lot of k's."
Tomorrow is the final day of the Classic with a 13 kilometre time trial and a 36 kilometre criterium. It will probably not decide the overall given today's time gaps. Wojciechowski should take the win, with Suckling second and Wajs third, as Wajs in particular is an excellent time trialist. The criterium should see the Poles control the race, allowing breaks to go that are no threat to the overall.