First Edition Cycling News for November 26, 2005
Edited by Anthony Tan
Surprised McEwen Australian Cyclist of the Year
By Anthony Tan in Sydney
At Cycling Australia's annual awards night, a surprised Robbie McEwen was awarded the Sir Hubert Opperman medal as 2005 Australian Cyclist of the Year. Held at the Rydges Jamison Hotel in Sydney last night, this year marked the 10th anniversary of the event and McEwen's second title, having previously won in 2002.
Earlier in the night, the 33 year-old from Queensland's Gold Coast was already taken aback by the honour of being voted Cyclingnews.com 2005 Australian Road Cyclist of the Year, beating nominees Michael Rogers and Bradley McGee for the title. So when his name was read again - and this time for the 'Oppy' - the normally vocal McEwen was temporarily speechless.
"I forgot my bow tie and didn't put my jacket on because I didn't think I was getting up here," were McEwen's first words on stage. "I was looking at the list [of contenders] and got my male road cyclist trophy, so I thought I'd go down to the bar and get a head start."
"This is a huge honour and I have a lot of people to thank - everyone that's been involved since the start of my career, and also my team-mates on the Davitamon-Lotto squad.
"But all the people I've ridden through... with over the years," the Freudian slip quickly corrected, but the entire audience were already cackling, knowing full well the former was exactly what McEwen had done since turning professional in 1996 to mould himself into one of the world's best road sprinters.
"Just seeing the footage of BMX made me remember where I came from as an eight year-old. I'm glad I got this award tonight, because there's so much talent coming through, my days are definitely numbered," he said in jest, arousing more laughs. "I'd just like to thank everybody that's been involved along the way and keep up the fantastic work - let's stay on top."
"Not many people win the award twice, so that's another accolade for Robbie," added Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks, who also acknowledged the support network that has made Australia the top-ranked track cycling nation and the fifth best on the road in 2005.
Fredericks made special mention of Australia's head cycling coach Shayne Bannan, an individual who has always insisted on a continued European presence for Australia's under 23 road cycling program, a program that turned riders like McEwen and Rogers into 'wanted' athletes, and has more recently brought a new generation of cyclists that includes Simon Gerrans and Allan Davis.
"He's been instrumental in so much of what we've achieved," said Fredericks, noting that Bannan will gradually move out of his current position and focus his efforts on establishing a AIS training centre in Europe.
Bannan was treated to a standing ovation, remarking that "we have a fantastic group of people; when I say fantastic, I mean the administrators, the coaches and clubs, our fantastic coaching structure, and, of course, our athletes. We've been through a special period, and this is the start of a special era. This is just the start, and as long as we manage it correctly and as long as we maintain the commitment, who knows where we could end up."
Numerous mentions, accolades and dedications were given to former AIS athlete Amy Gillett, in particular by Coach of the Year Warren McDonald, the tragedy of five months ago still very raw among her team-mates, friends and, of course, her family. However, comfort could be taken in seeing Amy's team-mates involved in the crash - Katie Brown, Lorian Graham, Kate Nichols, Alexis Rhodes and Louise Yaxley - looking like they were well on the road to a full recovery, their smiles buoying the positive vibe of the evening.
Other winners included Oenone Wood (Cyclingnews.com Female Road Cyclist of the Year), Ben Kersten (Male Track Cyclist) and Katie Mactier (Female Track Cyclist). Awards for men's and women's mountain bike and BMX, junior track and road, junior mountain bike and BMX, masters, and disability categories were also given. In addition, separate media categories for story of the year, regional media and photograph of the year formed part of the evening's celebrations, the latter award proudly won by Cyclingnews photographer Mark Gunter.
A full list of award winners will follow.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Les Clarke/Cyclingnews.com
Images by John Veage
Danny Pate and Mike Creed: Cycling buddies reunite
Jonathan Vaughters and the U.S. development TIAA-CREF squad are making big strides moving into 2006, with a new co-sponsor and plans for a European campaign. Another way the team is changing is by significantly adding to the roster, both in terms of sheer numbers and talent.
Two of the biggest acquisitions are former U23 world champion Danny Pate and Discovery Channel ex-pat Michael Creed. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski spoke with both friends and former teammates on their path to this point in their careers, the roles they foresee on this particular team and what they hope this step will do to help them achieve their goals in the future.
Both Danny Pate and Michael Creed have had their share of ups and downs as professional racers. Back in 1999, after winning the elite national championships, Pate was offered a spot on the top-tier Saeco-Valli & Valli team. Creed also got the nod the same year with a spot on their espoir team. Both friends were on their way to Italy, living the dream of every young racer.
However, things did not go as planned for either. Living alone in a foreign country, not speaking the language and the demands of a division one team took its toll. Creed decided to remain in the U.S. after racing Redlands, but Pate stuck it out for a year, with the team only using him as a reserve rider. In 2000, knowing the team was not renewing his contract, Pate went out and won the U23 world championship in the time trial, and new doors opened up.
During that year, Creed excelled at racing back in the U.S. with 7-Up and the national team, winning even more national championships on the road and track. Creed and Pate then reunited on the Prime Alliance team in 2003, while a veteran Euro-pro Jonathan Vaughters rounded out his career. After Prime Alliance stopped, Pate went to Health Net and then Jelly Belly, while Creed went on to race for the US Postal/Discovery Channel teams in 2004 and 2005 - though again not with the best outcome due to injury, sickness and just the downside of being one of many on a top team.
Click here to read the full story.
Wendy Simms: One big adventure
Having spent most of her racing career as a privateer mountain biker, Wendy Simms has enjoyed an excellent 2005, riding 'cross for Kona and accumulating an impressive tally of results in both MTB and 'cross. At last weekend's USGP of Cyclocross final round she managed to beat Lyne Bessette and take second overall in the series, exerting a level of dominance over Bessette not seen this season. With a wedding just around the corner and her job as a biologist keeping her busy, she managed to squeeze in some time to talk to Cyclingnews' Les Clarke.
When Cyclingnews interviewed Simms earlier this year she spoke about the fact that nobody really knew who she was, even when amongst the leading riders at the Sea Otter Classic. Riding as a privateer and sponsored by her partner Normon Thibault's running shop Frontrunners and Helly Hansen, Simms took second place overall in the cross country race, beating the likes of big-team riders such as Alison Dunlap, Mary McConneloug and Dara Marks-Marino over the four stages.
During this 'cross season, Simms has been a part of the Kona team, riding the USGP of Cyclocross series and finishing second to Lyne Bessette at the Canadian national championships held earlier this month. But at last weekend's USGP of 'cross final Simms took her revenge, becoming the first rider to beat Bessette all season, propelling her to second in the final series standings. Simms wasn't exactly expecting the win, but knew what was required, saying, "I definitely knew it was going to be a big challenge - I was gunning for it and it was definitely a goal, for sure. But I knew everything would actually have to come together to beat her and it happened last weekend."
Simms' preparations for the two races in California weren't exactly ideal, and a long season of racing appeared to have caught up with her. "Actually, I've been really tired - I had to go back to Gloucester, then come back to BC for work and then go back for nationals all in a week. So, I was pretty tired after that and the week before San Francisco I just said 'screw it, I'm resting - nothing's going to change that now' and it ended up working for me," she says.
Click here to read the full story.
Matxin Spain's best DS
Saunier Duval-Prodir's Joxean Fernandez Matxin was recently voted the best sports director in Spain. The poll was conducted by a number of Spanish sports journalists, and his team reports that he was deeply moved by the award, especially since he is one of the youngest sports directors in Spanish cycling.
Ricardo Riccò to Saunier Duval
In other news involving Saunier Duval-Prodir, Italian rider Riccardo Riccò is set to join the team for the next three years. The Italian U23 national team member will join the Saunier Duval at their first pre-season training camp in Santander from November 28-31, where he will finalise details of his contract.
Abnormal values in testing caused Ricco some problems this season, but after a complete medical check-up, it has been shown it was due to his own metabolic characteristics, the results also been granted approval by the UCI.
Gerben De Knegt joins Rabobank
Starting January 1, 2006, Gerben de Knegt will leave his AA-Drink/Adviesburo Bejan team and return to the Rabobank Continental Team until March 31, 2008. One of a handful of riders who has been able to follow world champion Sven Nys at the cyclo-cross races this season, recently finishing third at the Pijnacker World Cup, next year marks de Knegt's second stint with Rabobank.
"I really like it. I'm happy my sponsors, AA-Drink and Bejan, have given me the opportunity to make this switch," he said in a team statement. De Knegt celebrated his biggest success in 2002 when he won the Dutch championship in Zeddam, and at the world championships that year, he finished fifth.
Sydney Thousand on tomorrow
Top riders from six nations plus numerous local champions will compete in 22 events at The Sydney Thousand and Match Race of the Century, to be held at Dunc Gray Velodrome this Sunday afternoon.
The Match race of the Century sees the return of Ryan Bayley, winner of the sprint and keirin double at the Athens Games, but a rider who missed out much of this year through injury. He will face German sprint world champion Rene Wolff in a best of three heats showdown. In addition to Wolff, Germany has sent Mathias John, who starred at the recent Moscow Track World Cup.
Other Australian representatives include local hero Shane Kelly, Meares sisters Anna and Kerrie, and Bayley's sister Kristine. Of particular interest is the return to the velodrome of Tour de France star Robbie McEwen. The 33 year-old Queenslander will race in his home state on Sunday morning before flying south for two races in the afternoon - the aces scratch and the motor-paced grand prix, both 30 lap encounters.
There are also riders from New Zealand, Zimbabwe, France, Japan and the 14-member Korean squad, currently preparing for the Asian Games in Delhi, India, next month. Australia's most historic track cycling race, the Sydney Thousand, began in 1903 at the Sydney Cricket Ground where riders competed on a concrete path skirting the boundary fence. It attracted crowds of up to 54,000 people who flocked to see Major Taylor, an Afro American, who was the biggest drawcard in the world at the time.
Racing at commences at 2.30pm AEST and tickets are priced at $20 with free parking.
Top Brits to Tassie
This summer in Australia, top British cyclists Jon Norfolk and Claire Dixon have been contracted to ride at the Nationalgrid Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals. Norfolk has represented Britain at World Cup level on several occasions whose specialities include the kilo, keirin and scratch race, finishing second and fourth in the kilo at the 2004 Track World Cup.
Dixon has won 13 medals at national level and represented Great Britain at world championship level. She also has ridden on the road for what was once the number one women's team in the world, Acca Due O. Both riders will provide strong competition for local and other international stars competing at the carnivals.
More information: www.tascarnivals.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2005)