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Southbank Cycling Grand Prix Criterium - NE
Brisbane, December 7, 2003
Underdog Roland wins Grand Prix Criterium; McEwen & Cooke fight for leftovers
By John-Michael Flynn in Brisbane
A much anticipated sprint clash between Tour de France green jersey rivals Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen failed to eventuate today, as a dark horse emerged in the shape of Brisbane local Mark Roland, who claimed the honours in the first of two Queensland Cycling Grand Prix events at Brisbane's Southbank Parkland.
Riding for his future, the 25 year-old struggling professional, formerly of the Giant Asia Racing Team, finished the strongest of a four-man breakaway, providing a much needed boost on the end of a difficult 2003 road season.
"I've been looking forward to a win, it's been a tough year," said Roland shortly after crossing the finish line. "I'm glad to get a bit of consolation out of it."
Racing before a 3,000 strong crowd, the field which also included Australia's European road racing stars Matt White, Bradley McGee, Allan Davis and Matt Wilson, had its work cut out in the sixty minutes plus three laps criterium on a tight, technical street circuit.
With a three-man team contesting the race (Bradley McGee, Matt Wilson and Baden Cooke), the boys from FdJeux.com emerged from their off-season Australian training camp to dominate proceedings up until the closing stages.
A combination of McGee's strong out-of-season form and plenty of tactical cunning from his team-mates Cooke and Wilson, kept the bunch in check.
The hopes of hometown favourite Robbie McEwen were dashed soon after the race start, when McGee led a decisive four-man breakaway. "I tried early because as often happens on this circuit it was an early break that succeeded," McEwen said.
"I was in one (breakaway) and then as soon as we got caught back the move with McGee and Lademann and Betts and Mark Roland went away and then they were really well protected by their team-mates back in the group."
Roland (Team Flight Centre) and fellow Queenslander David Betts proved the real surprise packets, forming a strong combination with McGee and German Christian Lademann as the four man breakaway establish a thirty second lead by the twenty minute mark of the race.
"A nice group formed, riding really well and smoothly," Roland said. "Everyone was doing equal work, it was good."
Far from outclassed in such elite company, Roland was offered plenty of help by Betts, the Australian under 23 representative giving it everything to ensure the break succeeded. With his family watching and younger brother Jeremy also racing, Betts admitted it was "pretty hard early on" to get the break established. The young Queenslander who'll return to Europe in 2004 with the AIS men's squad and to compete for an Italian-based amateur team, showed plenty of promise.
Adding more punch to the four-man break the highly credentialled Lademann, from the visiting MGZT team, wasn't shirking the workload either as the breakaway caught up to the main bunch with ten minutes to go. "I was lucky to lap them," said Lademann. "I had a strong team and tried to keep the peloton together."
But the same tactics which allowed the break to get established proved costly in the final washup. At the scheduled race end, the lapped peloton bowed out with a consolation sprint finish, leaving the four race leaders to fight it out in an every man for himself contest won by Roland, with Lademann second, Betts third and McGee fourth.
The earlier bunch sprint saw Bundaberg's Allan Davis climb out of the shadow of Robbie McEwen to finish a credible fifth overall. Davis's performance all the more impressive, given his tireless efforts to bridge the gap with the main bunch.
Swamped by autograph hunters and kids eager to meet their hometown hero post-race, McEwen meantime was, as always, direct with his assessment of the race tactics dished out by his opponents.
"The guys that were doing the blocking at the back the Francais des Jeux and MG guys backfired on them because Roland took advantage and won alone so good on him." McEwen said.
Sun, sand and cycling: next stop Surfers Paradise
The cycling Grand Prix series now heads to Robbie McEwen's summer home on Queensland's Gold Coast next weekend on an incredibly tight, technical street circuit in the heart of Surfers Paradise.
While it's still pre-season for the Lotto-Domo speed machine, a victory on Australia's tourism glitter strip would auger well for Robbie's 2004 plans, which along with gaining Olympic selection, not surprising include winning back the Tour de France green jersey from fellow Aussie Baden Cooke.
Far from surprised with the below par result at Southbank, the Queenslander described the race as a 'good hitout' just three weeks back after resuming training. As eager as he is to score a morale boosting victory over the Victorian, McEwen won't be pushing too hard too soon, despite badly wanting to win at home.
"Everything's possible but I wouldn't bank on it at this time of year," Robbie said.
Traditionally the weeks leading into Christmas for McEwan are spent climbing the mountains of the Gold Coast Hinterland, racing the local 'Burleigh Worlds' criteriums and preparing his body a demanding European season.
"We know our teams are relying on us to be good during the European season and at the earliest at the end of January" added McEwen. "We've still got a few weeks where we've got to get up to some sort of good form."
Local riders shine against the stars of Australian cycling in Southbank.
By Heath Carney in Brisbane
Local riders were too strong for the big names in Brisbane's South Bank Cycling Grand Prix on Sunday, with Mark Roland (Flight Centre) taking out the first of the two main races of the Grand Prix Cycling Series.
With only limited training under their belts, the star attractions - Robbie McEwen (Lotto), Brad McGee, Baden Cooke, Matt Wilson (FdJeux.com) and defending champion Matt White (USPS) - were left to fight it out for the minor placings in the 1-hour plus 3-lap race around the streets of Southbank's café strip.
The support card for the main event included a women's race of 30-minutes plus 3-laps. Contested by a small field of only 8 riders, including a team of five, this race had all the makings of a procession. It wasn't to be however, with a number of early breaks testing the bunch. By the end of the 30 minutes all riders were together again, with the win going to Wendy Habermann in a sprint ahead of Diane Monk and Bridget Evans.
The men's race got underway at a cracking pace, with attempted breaks coming from all directions. Victoria's Paul Richards decided to test the field with a short lived break after just two laps of the 1.2km circuit. It wasn't long before Queensland rider Craig Mackie took over, leading on his own for the third and fourth laps.
After 8 minutes, the tone of the race was set, with a lead group of four opening up a 10 second lead from a small chase group including Matt White, with the peloton just a couple more seconds behind. By the 15 minute mark, the lead group consisting of locals Mark Roland and David Betts, Brad McGee and Germany's Christian Lademann and had widened the gap to 25 seconds.
White wasn't going to let his title slip too easily, and he took three riders with him at the 25 minute mark to try and bridge the ever-growing gap to the leaders. They could only manage to put 5 seconds on the peloton before being brought back in, with the FdJeux.com riders protecting the interests of their man McGee in the lead bunch.
At the half-way mark, the lead bunch of four continued to work together, with the lead now out to half a lap. Another four man chase group formed, but was again swallowed by the main bunch without making an impression on the race lead.
As 40 minutes ticked over, the lead group was only 10 seconds off the back of the main peloton, no doubt with the catch and a well earned rest at the back on their minds. Two minutes later and the lead four latched on to the back of the bunch with 18 minutes remaining.
With the first four places all but accounted for, it became a race for 5th to 10th, with a number of small breaks opening up over the final 10 minutes. Queenslander Allan Davis was the first to go, opening up a small lead with 9 minutes remaining before the final three laps were called. Luke Stockwell, another local rider tried his hand on the next lap, but he was also brought back to the bunch before getting too far away. When the peloton was given the three laps to go call, Matt White had a slight lead, but couldn't keep it for long. The scene was set for a bunch sprint for the minor prizes, with the four leaders given another three laps to sort out their places.
As the finish line approached for the main bunch, local rider Allan Davis put the hammer down and won bragging rights for life, crossing the line ahead of Tour de France Green Jersey winners McEwen and Cooke.
With the minor places decided, the peloton was pulled off the course, letting the four leaders fight it out on their own for another three laps. Things stayed pretty tight until the bell lap, when Mark Roland opened up a five second gap. After the race, Roland said that when he heard the bell, he realised that his three rivals weren't working that hard, so he took advantage.
Roland managed to hold on to his lead for the final lap, winning by a couple of seconds over Lademann - riding as a guest of Team MGZT- with Betts in third and McGee bringing up the rear. This was a big win for the Queenslander, who has had a tough year fighting off bouts of Hepatitis-A and pneumonia and will be aiming to finish off on an even higher note with another win on the Gold Coast next weekend.
Images by John-Michael Flynn
Images by David Magahy/www.goldcoastphotography.com
Images by Heath Carney
Images by James Worrell
Images by Michael Gall
Elite Men 1 Mark Roland 2 Christian Lademann 3 David Betts 4 Bradley McGee 5 Allan Davis 6 Robbie McEwen 7 Baden Cooke 8 Jeremy Betts 9 Tony Mann 10 Daniel Newnham Women 1 Wendy Habermann 2 Diane Monk 3 Bridget Evans B Grade Men 1 Jeff Harris 2 Todd Dawson 3 Nathan Seage 4 Daniel McCulloch 5 Tim Bartlett C Grade Men 1 Shane Meulling 2 Tim Golding 3 Brendan O'Connell
2002 Matt White (Aus) US Postal