Bendigo Gold and Opal Madison

Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, March 10, 2002

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Olympic duo teams up for another win

By Karen Forman in Bendigo

Sydney 2000 Olympic, Australians Scott McGrory and Brett Aitken, showed around 8000 spectators why the madison gold went to them and nobody else, in a smooth-as-silk, tactical winning ride in Australia's largest madison - the Bendigo Gold and Opal Madison - in country Victoria on Sunday night.

The pair - who were racing together for the first time since last year's Bendigo event (which they also won) - picked up a tidy prize packet in the $20,000, 200- lap event.

Although their win did not come as any major surprise to fans, it was not a victory without challenge.

Last year's second placegetters on countback, German Erik Weispfennig and NSW's Mark Renshaw, were firing on all fours and hungry for a win. United States visitor Mike Tillman, paired with South Australian Luke Roberts, were up there, along with Rodney McGee and Ben Brooks, both from NSW and the hot (perhaps?) chilli-driven Chilean team of Juan Cabrera and Jose Aravera.

Another American riding aggressively to win was Jame Carney, teamed with Austral Wheelrace winner from a fortnight ago, Darren Young, from Tasmania.

Although McGrory, 32, had told before the start that he wasn't feeling fit enough for the race, and Aitken had returned to the in-field with a pale face after putting in an all-out effort to win the $3000 Golden Mile Final just before, the two were never in doubt as the eventual winners.

Carney and Young were the first of 9 teams to get a lap up with 135 laps to go, being instrumental in an early breakaway with McGee and Brooks.

Later, the other teams tried to win a lap, but it took a while. The pace was relentless and the final result went down to the final sprints.

Perfect conditions

Conditions were perfect for the night of racing, the second in a two-night program of cycling and running races organised by Bendigo Apex and Lions Clubs. The carnival traditionally attracts the biggest amount of prizemoney and the biggest crowds of any in Australia. In fact, it was named the best cycling carnival in Australia at the Australian Cycling Federation Awards night late last year.

Unusally, the madison race was stopped for more than five minutes after a rider fell, but once given the all-clear by commissaires, the riders re-started with even greater enthusiasm than they had begun.

Carney was attacking, to the delight of the crowd, while McGrory and Aitken, who hadn't done much in the early sprints, came to the fore in the last third of the race.

"It was a great bike race," enthused commentator Stuart Doyle, while McGrory told the crowd from the podium that "we were a bit rusty; we haven't ridden together since last year here."

He put the win down to "experience".

"It's as simple as that," he said. "That's how we won the Olympics - we know each other perfectly and we just got the sprints down to perfection."

Aitken promised that with "four down" he would be coming back next year "for number five".

Other highlights of the carnival included the 3000 metre Golden Mile, which Aitken won in a no-holds-barred ride from scratch. Second place went to local rider Damian Ladd of Bendigo and third to Luke Roberts.

It was a bit of a race with a difference - the final was ridden in handicap formation with riders in five groups of six riders each.

Meanwhile, it's back to serious training for McGrory. . .

Winning Australia's Bendigo Madison on Sunday night has proven to be a great start to training for the road season for Scott McGrory.

The 31 year old, originally from Wodonga on the Victorian-New South Wales border, intends to start training "seriously" for the upcoming road season next Wednesday and he says his 200 laps around the 400 metre almost flat Bendigo track, got things moving nicely.

"Until the end of April I will be on the road with Mapei (he is having his second year with them) and aiming to get any result I can on the road heading to the Commonwealth Games, theWorlds and the Six Days," he said.

"My six days partner Matt Gilmore, from Launceston (Tasmania), who is in his first year with Mapei, is aiming to beat his father's record of 12 six day victories. He's at eight now."

McGrory had his last race in San Sebastian on February 9 (which he and Gilmore won). He had returned to Australia over the four-week Christmas break after the last four sixes, a bit of an unusual step for him.

"Normally we don't get a big enough break to come home so we go somewhere in Europe, but this time I had the opportunity to come home and it has been great," he said.

"I have had the opportunity to do a few things, raise my profile and spend some time in Port Douglas with Donna. It is really my only opportunity to have a break before the Commonwealth Games."

He said because of the long break, his fitness wasn't at its peak, which made it difficult to compete in domestic events such as the Bendigo madison.

"There is a lot of pressure on Aussies who race overseas to do well when they are home, but it's actually our off-season," he said.

"Like Stuart O'Grady, like Robbie McEwen, we are expected to come home and do well. I've just been rolling along but because of this event I have got onto the bike a couple of weeks sooner than I had expected."

Despite enjoying the lifestyle of living overseas (which he has done since 1996), McGrory says he would like to race at home more often.

"The trouble is that we are in the best condition in the middle of the European season, not when the events are on here," he said.

"I feel Brett is a bit different because he is living here."

None the less, he fully intends to return to Australia to live one day.

"I have to think of the big picture," he said. "I am keen to keep going for at least five years; definitely the Olympics in Athens are there for me for sure. Just trying to convince Brett to go that far is the thing, now he has decided to remain in Australia and race here. . .

"We want to keep him . . . it's a proven team. If you take 20 guys who are all physically fit with the same physiology, it is the two guys with the experience who win. It would be hard to get a new guy."

McGrory isn't sure what he'll do when he does retire, but race promotion sounds like it will be one of the major options.

He isn't all that happy with the domestic track scene, he says.

"We're in a bit of a rut. Bendigo is fantastic but the others . . . It think a lot of people in cycling have a lot to answer for, because nothing new is happening. The six days in Europe are the pinnacle of tradition, but they change every year and they getting bigger. There were 135,000 people at Bremen last year.

"I think people get stuck in their ways . . . and we need to be looking at new ways of doing things to get cycling back on track in Australia again."


Photo's by Karen Forman



Bendigo Madison

1 Scott McGrory (Victoria)/Brett Aitken (South Australia)   74 pts
2 Erik Weispfennig (Germany)/Mark Renshaw (NSW)             70 
3 Juan Cabrera (Chile)/Jose Aravera (Chile)                 48
4 Rodney McGee (NSW)/Ben Brooks (NSW)                       47
5 Carney/Young                                              37
6 Roberts/Tillman                                           35
7 Bates/Pell                                                26
8 Randall/Van Hout                                          11
9 Rice/Cutting                                               1

1 lap behind

10 Woolridge/Davis                                          10
11 Godfrey/Edmunds                                           8
12 Clarke/Sanderson                                          6
12 Yoshi/Decker                                              6
14 Jamieson/Norton                                           4
15 Sutton/Farmer                                             2
16 Kammermann/Finning                                        0
16 DeLuca/Wilksch                                            0
16 Atkins/Sulzberger                                         0

Full results to come