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Australian Criterium Championships - CN
Cronulla, Australia, December 14, 2008
Bernie breaks through
Sulzberger's first national title in time for Christmas
By Les Clarke in Cronulla, Australia
Sometimes Santa Claus brings us gifts that don't quite fit, or we'd rather something else had appeared under the tree. In Bernard Sulzberger's case, however, Santa Claus brought a gift that not only fits, but indicates his new status as Australian criterium champion.
And like a boy who has been good all year, the eldest Sulzberger earned his reward on a tough, windy day on Sydney's southern beaches. Jumping across to Drapac Porsche rider Peter McDonald as he escaped solo midway through the race, Sulzberger accompanied the Sydney strongman in his endeavours and the two shared the spoils when the chasing pack of star riders couldn't organise an effective pursuit for the title.
"From the start there were a few breaks, then Pete slipped away with another guy, although that guy slipped off," explained Sulzberger, whose younger brother Wes will ride with Française des Jeux next season, while the elder member of the family will ply his trade Stateside and in Australia with the merged Virgin Blue-Team Successful Living, as he outlined after the finish.
"Next year I'll be racing with Virgin Blue and heading over to compete in America - I'm looking forward to it. I only recently signed with them; about three or four weeks ago," said Sulzberger before adding that, "There are a lot of criteriums in America, so it will be good to do them with this jersey on."
Despite the best efforts of Matt Wilson, Baden Cooke, Chris Sutton and Graeme Brown, who all tried to bridge the gap solo in the last 10 laps, the deficit remained over 23 seconds and hence the title came down to a two-man sprint. Brown explained that an effective chase never eventuated; it wasn't for a lack of effort, however - the Rabobank rider's power meter recorded an average reading of about 350 watts for the event.
One rider who would have recorded a high power output was McDonald, who is well-known in Sydney cycling circles as a rider with great endurance. He lived up to that reputation today, doing the lion's share of the work during the 40km race. He explained that he knew Sulzberger's track background meant he had the better kick in the finish. "It was always going to be hard to beat Bernie [in a sprint]," the affable rider said.
"I tried to hit him on the hill out the back - it was really my only chance - but I had to go off first wheel, so it was always going to be hard. I couldn't get enough of a gap; I got a little one, but it wasn't enough to take it home."
Meanhile, behind the front-running duo was a pack of fast men - names like Cooke, Brown, Hilton Clarke and Renshaw. They kept Sulzberger and McDonald focused on the task at hand, and their win was even more deserved given the depth of sprinting talent that couldn't muster a successful chase. "I didn't want to go to the finish with the likes of Baden Cooke, Mark Renshaw and guys like Brownie, so it was my best chance to get away," said Sulzberger.
"That was the plan at the start - try and get in a break - which was the best way to win it for us," continued the Tasmanian. "Pete was going really strong and I wasn't 100 percent confident, although I knew I had a good chance [for the win]. But no, I wasn't really confident."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Dave Bateman Photography/www.davebatemanphoto.com
Elite men 1 Bernard Sulberger (Aus) Virgin Blue Cycling 2 Peter McDonald (Aus) Drapac Porsche 3 Chris Sutton (Aus) Garmin-Slipstream 4 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank 5 Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld 6 Dean Windsor (Aus) Drapac Porsche Women 1 Kirsty Broun (Aus) AB Cycles 2 Rochelle Gilmore (Aus) HP Teschner 3 Ruth Corset (Aus) Men's B grade 1 Liam Kelly (Eastern Suburbs CC) 2 Michael Phelan (Canberra CC) 3 Samuel Spokes (Real Aussie Kids) Masters men 5+ 1 Kevin Nichols (St George) 2 John Sunde (St George) 3 Bruce Goddard (Bathurst) Masters men 2-4 1 Stewart Campbell (Easts) 2 Charlie Topfer (Lidcombe) 3 Alex Frame (Sutherland)