Forges Stores Wheelrace - IM

Melbourne, Victoria, February 9, 2002

2001 Results    Results    Past winners

Sanderson Continues Hot Streak

by Malcolm Sawford in Melbourne

Nicholas Sanderson, 17 year old Year 12 student, has continued his recent top form, taking out the 2002 edition of the prestigious Forges Stores 2000m Wheelrace, only a week after claiming his first major handicap title at Leongatha.

Showing signs of things to come, he qualified for the final by winning arguably the toughest heat of the night from the 80 meter mark, holding off Scratch men Darren Young and World Keirin Champion Ryan Bayley, in what became a 6 lap sprint derby with 14 of the 19 starters handicapped less than 125 meters.

Other heat winners were former speed skater Simon Walker (180 m) of Carnegie Caulfield, who attacked the field with 2 laps to go and held on for a comfortable win in his first track ride this season, Andrew Rix (135 m) of Bendigo, 1988 Forges winner David Coultas (110 m) and 17 year old Sean Finning, who jumped away from the charging bunch lead by Shane Kelly(Scratch) at the bell lap after being caught out of position and held on for an impressive win.

With Kelly looking to go one better than his close second at the season opening Melbourne Cup on Wheels, and again last week at Leongatha, and joined by back markers Bayley, Young, Todd Wilksch (20 m), big Robert Wilson (20 m), Tim Decker (60 m) and Brad Norton (65m), the horse power was certainly there.

The middle marks were very well represented, however, and if they could get organized, they would certainly make things tough for the 'backies'.

Outmarker Mark Howard of SKCC (190 m) lead the field away, and decided not to wait, putting it all on the line in a solo pursuit for the big prize. He held off the middle markers for over 4 laps, before a strong turn of pace from Coultas reeled him in.

The back markers weren't making much head way in their chase, until Bayley and Young lifted the tempo at 3 laps to go and Young and Kelly were able to latch onto the back of the main field. As Kelly charged high around the banking towards the front of the bunch, Sanderson made his move a little over a lap from home, leading out strongly to get the bell.

Kelly came from the clouds down the back straight, and was closing the gap at a great rate of knots with the crowd roaring its support. The line was just too far away, and Sanderson held off one of Australia's great superstars of the track by a bike length. Masters rider Laurie Noonan of Brunswick (155 m) was a couple of lengths back in 3rd, just ahead of Simon Walker who claimed the last spot on the victory dais.

It's been a very successful couple of weeks for the youngster riding for the Ararat Cycling Club. Two major Wheelrace wins, coming within weeks of his move to Melbourne, and the start of his final year of High School. He had found his legs feeling "a bit dead" in his first event of the night, but had been happy with his winning ride in the 4th heat to qualify for the final. He admitted to feeling a bit worried he had launched his winning attack too soon, when he looked over his shoulder with half a lap to go and saw Shane Kelly on the charge, but put his head down and gave it everything. He thanked his coaches Hilton Clarke and Dave Sanders of the Victorian Institute of Sport, and was going to keep his fingers crossed to continue his good form for the rest of the season.

His main target now is a spot in the Australian team for the World Junior Championships, to be held in Melbourne in August.

Second place getter Kelly was "pretty happy" with his second place to Sanderson for the second time in a week. He also felt a little flat for the final, with the program not allowing much time for recovery between races. Every inch the professional, he thanked his fellow back markers for their efforts in catching the leaders, and commended the ride of the strong middle markers, while warming down on the rollers and answering questions from the throng of reporters.

Two Victorian Titles were run during the action packed carnival. The night opened with the Dimmey's-Forges Stores 20km Championships, with the Speed Shoes Under 19 Keirin Title also up for grabs. Sprint stars Ryan Bayley and Shaun Collins were in the thick of the action for much of the race, while the stayers in the field did their best to make the race too tough for the fast twitch boys.

Adrian Sansonetti of Northcote was first to force the pace 13 laps in, and while he was quickly brought back, the acceleration saw the first of many retirements.

Former World Junior Pursuit Champion Andrew Mason was next to hit out with Tasmanian Darren Young on his wheel, but again, the bunch was quick to react. Bayley himself surged at 55 and 50 laps to go, but could not attract any company and eased up and allowed the field to regroup.

Last year's Wheelrace winner Warren Knevitt (Carnegie Caulfield) jumped away and opened the first substantial lead, holding the rest at bay for 5 laps. After his capture, the bunch resumed its watchful stance, and attacks by Young, Lee Godfrey, Mason and Godfrey again weren't given much space. A split developed in the middle of the field with 20 laps remaining, before things settled down for the final dozen laps and the 14 survivors prepared to sprint for the title. South Australian Michael Harding found himself leading out the field for the last 3 laps, before Adrian Sansonetti came over the top at the bell and held off Tim Decker and Mark Roach for a good win.

Sansonetti came on the Elite scene with a win in the Victorian 1km Time Trial Title in his first year as a senior. Three bad crashes last track season made it a write off, and he was delighted to return to the winner list with his second Victorian Championship.

Dual Junior World Champion Mark French of Carnegie Caulfield was odds on to take out the Under 19 Keirin, and did not disappoint, winning his heat comfortably from Nick Sanderson. He also dominated the final, held shortly after the Wheelrace final, leading out nearly 2 laps from home and turning on the after-burners in the back straight on the final lap, to open up a commanding margin at the finish. Bendigo's Andrew Rix took second ahead of Brad Norton, but a fall in the home straight claimed Wheelrace winner Sanderson and New Zealander Adam Curry. Neither sustained major injury, with Curry heard to enquire whether there was prize money for 4th place on his way to the first aid station , as he was sure he had slid across the line in that position!

Other highlights on the programs were the biggest Women's field for a few years, which saw Coburg's Narelle Peterson turn the tables on Western Australian Kristine Bayley to win the John Beasley Cycles Scratch race. The handicapper was on the money, with the first four women crossing the line in the order of their racing numbers! Katrina Purcell (Northcote) and Vanessa Crawford from Hamilton filled the minor places in a race where nearly the entire field was in contention with one lap to go.

The Fitzroy Cycles Women's Handicap saw the back markers never in contention, as the out markers combined well over the 1500m distance. Sally Robins, riding for the Broadford Seymour Club rode from the middle mark 100m handicap to snatch the win, ahead of limit riders Nicole Huntriss (SKCC), Nicole Holt (Blackburn) and Kassie Anderson (Northcote), all riding from the 180m mark.

The Aces Scratch race featured former World Kilo Champ Kelly, Current World Keirin Champ Bayley, World Junior Sprint and Olympic Sprint Champ Mark French and Shaun Collins who has always delighted in upstaging the more fancied stars. Collins tried a flyer underneath a lap and a half out, but had the door slammed shut by Kelly. Bayley then lead out strongly to score the win ahead of Kelly and Collins.

Always a crowd favorite, the Aces Keirin, sponsored by Australian Abalone Exports, saw an action packed race. With World Champion Bayley, Japanese Keirin Series star Kelly and local showman Shaun Collins making the final, the race promised plenty.

Collins set things off soon after the derny swung off: caught out of position, he forced his way to the front by diving to the inside of the track, and onto the duck boards in a move he felt was a little fortunate to escape the wrath of the commisaire. He couldn't hold the pace all the way to the line, however, and Kelly and Bayley came past to fight out a shoulder to shoulder battle all the way around the home bend, with the World Champion kicking clear in the straight.

Racing closed with the 80 lap Dimmeys Melbourne Madison, an exciting addition to the program. A little rejigging of the entry list was required after a few riders could not start, including the inform Sanderson, due to falls and fatigue from a night of hard racing, but 14 teams provided a great race to finish the carnival.

Shane Kelly and Darren Young were the early leaders, winning the 2nd and 3rd sprints. The young team of Australian Junior Road team member Jonny Clarke (Carnegie Caulfield) and first time Madison rider South Australian Dane Cheers were always in the first 3, and as the race approached the half way mark, they were well in contention, along with the experienced team of Todd Wilksch and Tim Decker.

Running in 4th place with 32 laps to go, the Victorian Institute of Sport pair of Sean Finning and Andrew Mason went on the attack, and with the crowd urging them on stayed clear to win the next 4 sprints, and lap the field, making them virtually unbeatable. Finning was going so well, that he roared straight past the bunch and won the next sprint as well!

The Kelly and Young pair combined to take out the final sprint and secure their 2nd place finish, while Wilksch and Decker stole 3rd overall in the final sprint from Clarke and Cheers. Jonny Clarke was a little disappointed with the result; his regular partner broke his elbow in Leongatha and he had not had a chance to practice with his new partner. His preferred replacement, elder brother and Skilled Geelong Bay Series star Hilton was unable to be squeezed into the field, but the brothers will be out to prove a point next weekend at the Victorian Championships in Warragul next weekend.

Promoter Barry Langley was satisfied with the crowd on the night, but would have been much happier with another few thousand spectators. New innovations such as an infield bar, and pre race entertainment from live band Planet Groove were well received by the crowd, and bode well for the next event at the Vodafone Velodrome, the famous Austral Wheelrace on February 23.


Images also by the frenetically busy Malcolm Sawford


Forges Stores Wheelrace

1 Nicholas Sanderson
2 Shane Kelly
3 Laurie Noonan
4 Simon Walker 

2002 20km Victorian Scratch Race Championship

1 Adrian Sansonetti
2 Tim Decker
3 Mark Roach

Under 19 Keirin

1 Mark French
2 Andrew Rix 
3 Brad Norton 

John Beasley Cycles Scratch race

1 Narelle Peterson 
2 Kristine Bayley 
3 Katrina Purcell 
4 Vanessa Crawford 

Dimmeys Melbourne Madison

1 Sean Finning/Andrew Mason
2 Shane Kelly/Darren Young
3 Todd Wilksch/Tim Decker

Past winners

2001 Warren Knevitt (off 120 metres).