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by Karen Forman in Warragul
The Victorian Madison Championship for 2002 has gone to two South Australians - Olympic gold medallist Brett Aitken and road racing hopeful Luke Roberts.
The pair rocketed it home to win this year's championship by 73 points - 33 ahead of nearest rivals Hilton Clarke and younger brother Jonny (aged just 16) on 40 - in a sizzling finale to the Warragul Cycling Club's annual track carnival tonight.
It was the club's third attempt in as many years to stage the event, which has been cancelled the past two years due to rain. Although rain clouds shadowed the outdoor 333 metre track throughout the day, the sun came out in time for the start of the 150 lap/50km event, which finished under lights just over an hour later.
A small but enthusiastic crowd of locals cheered the 13 teams of two on, but it was Aitken and Roberts and Clarke and Clarke who attracted most of the attention.
The Olympic sprint champion showed his prowess from the gun, working in perfect sync with the less experienced but no less talented Roberts to win the first five sprints and rack up 30 points.
They lost the next one to the Clarke brothers, won the next, lost the following one, then picked up the final five including the last, which earned them double points.
Although Hilton Clarke and his teenaged brother were strong and in tune with each other, they were no competition for Aitken, who has chosen to race on the Australian domestic scene this year, rather than return to Europe to do the six-days with his Olympic partner Scott McGrory, and Roberts, who the previous day qualified for the Australian Commonwealth Games team in a 3km time trial in Adelaide (he needed 3.21.3 and he did 3.20.3).
Aitken was on fire throughout the night of racing, picking up first place prize money in the A grade scratch race (15 laps), the third heat of the 2000 metre wheel race, the second heat of the keirin, the A-grade elimination, the wheel race final and placing second in the keirin final.
The wheel race, in particular, was a top effort, considering the finish time was 2.06.81 - much quicker than the average of 2.19 in the heats.
Aitken still had plenty left over for the madison final, which was raced at a brisk pace.
He attacked leading into the first sprint, handing over to Roberts with half a lap to go, and the pair took the first sprint. Hilton Clarke attacked off the line, testing the field, and left riders all over the place.
Two teams were immediately in trouble and even at this early stage, team 11 - Doug Garley and Ryan Kelly - lost a lap.
With 127 laps to go, 22-times Tasmania title winner Mark Jamieson was attacking off the front, but Aitken and Roberts and Clarke and Clarke managed to maintain control of the race until the end.
Basically the event was fast leading into the sprints, with the odd attack coming out of them, and a more controlled, less frenetic pace in between.
Before it was half finished, it was obvious the event was to be fought out between the top four teams. Aitken punctured at one stage, but his helpers had the wheel changed within seconds and he didn't lose his place.
He attacked with 19 laps to go and got a 70 metre lead on six chasers and after that it was no contest.
Despite the seeming ease with which they won, Roberts said later it wasn't until 20 laps to go that he felt confident they had the race in the bag.
"I felt good going into it, but when you are favourites, a lot of guys are watching you and if there is a breakaway, they expect you to chase," he said.
"I know Brett's style of riding . . . I have done a couple of madisons with him. Basically he likes to hit out at the start into the sprints and set it up so both of us are sharing the sprints and doing half to three quarters of a lap, rather than just leaving it to one guy."
He said with 20 to go, he finally realised the other teams couldn't catch up.
"I still had good legs at the end . . . I have been doing a lot of track training in the last few weeks," he said.
"I had the 3km time trial yesterday to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, so I was working towards that. This is a bonus."
Unfortunately his plan to return to Europe to ride a second year with the Dutch road team, Cycling2000, was dashed when the team folded following the withdrawal of a sponsor.
"I had been hoping to concentrate on the road this year . . . I think road is where the future is," he said.
"But now I don't have a team I will continue with rack and focus on the nationals, the Commonwealth Games and track World Cups."
He may also head to Germany to have a go at madison racing there.
"I still want to have a good go at road racing, but I have got a few good years ahead," he said.
"We have a new track coach, Ian McKenzie, at the AIS and I like working with him. I am willing to experiment on a few things and wouldn't mind doing the individual pursuit this year. It is quite exciting in a way."
Aitken said he was happy with his night of racing and although he intended to remain on the domestic scene for now, had not ruled out Commonwealth Games or even a return to the Six-Days in Europe...where McGrory remains one of the most successful riders.
It is Ryan Bayley's event, but his performance in the lead-up wasn't heralding a great result.
"I should be going up in my fitness, not down," the reigning world keirin champion said after yet another disappointing result in support races at tonight's annual Warragul Cycling Club track carnival/Victorian Madison Championship.
"I don't know what's going on."
He needn't have worried.
After qualifying second behind last week's Forges Stores Wheel race winner Nicholas Sanderson in the third heat, Bayley was firing on all fours for a definitive win in the final, later in the night.
He took the wheel of the gerney unchallenged and fought off an attack when it pulled away, wound himself up in a smallish gear, as he is known to , and won the race convincingly.
"Now I'm happy," he said afterwards.
"I am going back to Adelaide to the AIS and train for the Commonwealth Games . . . where we are going to go all out. Then the nationals and the worlds."
Brett Aitken was second and Todd Wilksch third.
He might only be a beginner on a bike, in a small country town in Australia - and therefore small fry in the big pool of cyclists around the world - but Warragul junior rider Sam Atkinson would have to be one of the bravest - and keenest - bicycle enthusiasts around.
The nine year old member of the Warragul Cycling Club - who says he doesn't think much of track racing but loves the road - was riding with his father and sister on a BMX bike in forest near the family home on January 1 when a piece of bark became wedged in the spokes of his front wheel.
He couldn't turn the handlebars and crashed into a log, resulting in injuries so horrific that they would turn a lot of adults off the sport forever.
Young Sam, who was unconscious for half an hour after the accident, was airlifted to the Royal Children's Hospital in nearby Melbourne, where doctors diagnosed him as having:
* a perforated bowel;
* broken jaw in three places;
* loss of 11 teeth;
* lacerated liver;
* bruised kidneys; and a
* damaged spleen.
But this kid is resilient. Two operations and two weeks in hospital later, he was back home with a zipper-like scar stretching from hip bone to hip bone, a toothless grin on his face - asking his mum Karen for a new bike.
He's not even back at school full-time yet (he's only allowed to go for an hour a day at this early stage in his recovery) but already he has been on his old mountain bike and has picked out the road bike he would like to get.
"I like road racing the best but my sister Zoe and me only have old mountain bikes to do it on," he told cyclingnews.com as he watched one of his heroes, Olympian Brett Aitken, on the club's velodrome tonight.
Club members and members of the community have been so impressed with the youngster's enthusiasm that they have been raising money to buy him that new bicycle.
Money raised during an iteamNova.com presentation held as a leadup to the club's annual track carnival-Victorian Madison Championships, will go towards the new bike fund.
Meanwhile, iteamNova's captain Dave McKenzie, who has been recovering from his own training crash and regretting the resulting inability to contest the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under and Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia, had one thing to say about Sam.
"He's a brave kid."
Pictures by Karen Forman
Pictures courtesy Shane Stanley
J9/11 scratch (3 laps) 1 Hector Vigor (Brunswick) no time recorded 2 Bradley Howard (Geelong West) 3 Nicholas Rix (Bendigo) J13 scratch (3 laps) 1 Michael Downing (Carnegie) no time recorded 2 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea) 3 Trevor Griffiths (Wodonga) 4 Simon Thorsen (Sheparton) M15 scratch (6 laps) 1 Leigh Howard (Geelong West) no time recorded 2 Alexander Smyth (Carnegie) 3 Tom Mulligan (Warragul) W15 scratch (3 laps) 1 Tess Downing (Carnegie) W17 scratch (6 laps) 1 Jessica Tanner (Sheparton) 3.02.06 2 Natalie Shaw (Ballarat-Sebastopol) 3 Amy Phillips (Carnegie) M17 scratch B grade (8 laps) 1 Thomas Frost (Castlemaine) 3.52.29 2 Sean Pontelandolfo (Bendigo) 3 Scott Peoples (Sheparton) 4 Karl Sobott (Waragul) M17 scratch A grade (10 laps) 1 Shane Perkins (Carnegie) 4.30.66 2 Daniel Thorsen (Sheparton) 3 Patrick Shaw (Ballarat-Sebastopol) 4 Mario Giramondo (Carnegie) B grade progressive pointscore (15 laps) 1 Hayden Mead (44 points) 6.17.15 2 David Lunn (28 points) 3 Alexander James (27points) C grade scratch (10 laps) 1 Brad O'Nial 2 Glen Bush 3 Darren Cathie 4 Jim Spanswick A grade scratch (15 laps) 1 Brett Aitken (South Australia) 6.01.11 2 Luke Roberts (South Australia) 3 Shaun Collins (Carnegie) 4 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) J9/11 handicap (2 laps) 1 Bradley Howard (Geelong West) off 20m 1.03.04 2 David De Bruyne (Warragul) off 75m 3 Simon Bush (Sheparton) off 40m J13 handicap (3 laps) 1 Michael Downing (Carnegie) off 10m 1.28.75 2 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea) off Scr 3 Brenton Jones (Warragul) off 60m 4 Patrick Lane (Chelsea) off 45m M15 handicap (3 laps) 1 Danny Clarke (Carnegie) off 70m 1.18.09 2 Tom Mulligan (Warragul) off 70m 3 Anthony Rix (Bendigo) off 65m M17 handicap (3 laps) 1 Shane Perkins (Carnegie) off scratch 1.08.56 2 Michael Ford (Carnegie) off 10m 3 Mario Giramondo (Carnegie) off 45m 4 Scott Peoples (Sheparton) off 130m W15/17 handicap (3 laps) 1 Amy Phillips (Carnegie) off 80m 1.18.47 2 Tess Downing (Carnegie) off 60m 3 Hannah Bush (Sheparton) off 35m 4 Jessica Tanner (Shepparton) off scratch J9/11 handicap (2 laps) 1 Amelia De Blauw (Warragul) off 140m 59.19 2 Kieran Pontelandolfo (Bendigo) off 135m 3 Nicholas Rix (Bendigo) off 55m J13 handicap (3 laps) 1 Trevor Griffiths (Wodonga) off 25m 2 Simon Thorsen (Sheparton) off 40m 3 Patrick Lane (Chelsea) off 45m Women's handicap (6 laps) 1 Vanessa Crawford (Hamilton) off 75 m 2.37.88 2 Narelle Peterson (Coburg) off 30m 3 April Frost (Castlemaine) off 160m 4 Elizabeth Williams (Brunswick) off 110m 2000m wheel race heat 1 (6 laps) 1 Mark Jamieson (Msv) off 100m 2 Matt Pope (Geelong West) off 185m 3 Brad O'Nial (Echuca/Moama) off 170m 4 John Wallin (Warragul) off 155m 5 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastopol) off 90m 6 Colin Morris (Footscray) off 210m 2000m wheel race heat 2 1 Matthew Heath (Footscray) off 80m 2 Sean Finning (Castlemaine) off 80m 3 Darren Cathie (Carnegie) off 180m 4 Jim Spanswick (Chelsea) off 180m 5 Ewin Williams (Brunswick) off 140m 6 Hayden Mead (Chelsea) off 120m 2000m wheel race heat 3 1 Brett Aitken (SA) off scratch 2.19.84 2 Warren Knevitt (Carnegie) off 90m 3 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) off 120m 4 Lee Godfrey (Geelong) off 80m 5 Tommy Nankervis (Carnegie) off 110m 6 Brad Edmunds (Echuca/Moama) off 110m 2000m wheel race heat 4 1 Luke Roberts (SA) off 20m 2.19.86 2 Richard England (Blackburn) off 130m 3 Ryan Bayley (SA) off scratch 4 Tim Decker (Bendigo) off 50m 5 Nicholas Sanderson (Ararat) off 80m 6 Peter Herrewyn (Geelong West) 120m Women's scratch (10 laps) 1 Vanessa Crawford (Hamilton) off 75m 4.56.86 2 Katrina Purcell (nct) off 55m 3 Narelle Peterson (Coburn) off 30m 4 Elizabeth Williams (Brunswick) off 110m Tandem scratch 1 Wolf/Downing 5.04.80 2 Cathie/Eppinger 3 Doyle/Smythe M15 handicap (3 laps) 1 Leigh Howard (Geelong) off 10m 1.18.19 2 Danny Clarke (Carnegie) off 60m 3 Tom Mulligan (Warragul) off 65m 4 Timothy Murphy (Lga) off 160m W15/17 handicap (3 laps) 1 Tess Downing (Carnegie) off 60m 2 Amy Phillips 3 Hannah Bush (Sheparton) off 35m 4 Erin Downing (Carnegie) off 85m C grade motorpace (15 laps) 1 Scott Keeble 6.22.25 2 Doug Garley 3 Brad O'Nial 4 Wayne Collins Keirin heat one (7 laps) 1 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) 12.03m for flying 200m 2 Shaun Collins (Carnegie) Keirin heat two 1 Brett Aitken (SA) 12.37 2 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastopol) Keirin heat three 1 Nicholas Sanderson (Ararat) 11.97 2 Ryan Bayley (Mid) B grade motorpace (15 laps) 1 Richard England (Blackburn) 2 Andrew Rix (Bendigo) 3 Ewin Williams (Brunswick) Masters scratch (10 laps) 1 Jim Spanswick (Chelsea) 4.41.54 2 Wayne Collins (LaTrobe Valley) 3 Colin Morris (Footscray) A grade elimination 1 Brett Aitken (SA) 6.41.66 2 Luke Roberts (SA) 3 Nicholas Sanderson (Ararat) Tandem derby 1 Wolf/Downing 2 Cathie/Eppinger 3 Moody/Cootes Avanti 2000m wheel race final (6 laps) 1 Brett Aitken (SA) off scratch 2 Luke Roberts (SA) off 20m 3 Mark Jamison off 100m 4 Hayden Mead off 120m Tandem handicap 1 Moody/Cootes 2 Doyle/Smythe 3 Cathie/Eppinger Womens elimination 1 Vanessa Crawford (Hamilton) 4.17.16 2 Narelle Peterson (Coburn) 3 Katrina Purcell (NCT) 4 Elizabeth Williams (Brunswick) Clash of the titans sprint challenge 1 The Banana Man 2 Sally Robins Keirin final 1 Ryan Bayley 2 Dean Taylor 3 Todd Wilksch. Victorian 50km Madison Championship (150 laps) 1 Brett Aitken and Luke Roberts (73 points) 2 Hilton Clarke and Jonny Clarke (40 points) 3 Brad Emunds and Lee Godfrey (24 points) 4.Tim Decker and Todd Wilksch (22 points) 5 Nicholas Sanderson and Sean Finning (11 points) 6 Mark Jamieson and Brad Norton (7 points)
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