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BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, January 16-19, 2003
Day 4 - January 19: Elite Men's road race, 180 km
O'Grady shines under the Southern Cross
By Jeff Jones in Ballarat
South Australian Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) has taken out the Australian National Road Championship in Buninyong today, winning in a tight three man sprint against Allan Davis (Qld/ONCE) and Patrick Jonker (SA/Van Hemert Groep). O'Grady (29) has worn the yellow and green jerseys in the Tour de France, and is also the reigning Commonwealth Games road champion, but he has never won a national road title. Today that changed as he edged out Davis by half a wheel at the end of the 180 km event.
"In past years I've always been on the back foot and haven't really been aggressive enough, but today I said 'stuff it - I'm gonna go for it'. It hurt like hell," said an exhausted but elated O'Grady after crossing the line.
O'Grady described it as one of his biggest wins. "This is right up there and it means a great deal. There's a lot of pride in wearing the national jersey and Australians have a lot more respect in Europe now, so it's going to be brilliant to have that all year. It made a big difference to Robbie's [McEwen's] year so I'll see if I can equal him," he vowed.
McEwen was unable to produce the goods for a second year in a row as he struggled to make the key breaks today. In the end, it was a matter of who was the strongest as the leading group of seven was reduced to three when Jonker attacked on the climb with two laps to go. Only O'Grady and Allan Davis could go with him, and that was the bike race.
"I was pretty confident but Pat gave it a big nudge with two [laps] to go but I got straight on his wheel. I knew that when we got to the top of the hill that'd be it and I'd just have to hang in there."
Hang in there he did, although he was wary of Davis' ability. "I haven't seen Allan for a long time but I saw he was pretty comfortable when he came across in that group," said O'Grady. "I knew it was going to be difficult to win but I thought I'd just try and stay there for the finish."
O'Grady was full of praise for Davis, who turns 23 this year. "He's a brilliant bike rider. That guy's got a huge future - he's just signed up for ONCE with Manolo Saiz and that's one of the biggest teams in the world. He's going to go a long way."
Davis, who hails from Bundaberg in Queensland, refused to say die as Pat Jonker started the sprint with 500m to go. "Paddy hit out early and I thought I've got a chance - this is it. I gave it everything I had, but full credit to Stuey who was too good in the sprint," said Davis.
"It's an Australian championship. It's got a lot of pride and prestige to win."
Jonker however was satisfied with third, as he knew he had no chance against O'Grady and Davis in a sprint. "I really like the circuit and I attacked early after two laps," he explained. "It was a bit too early and spent the whole day at the front and maybe I didn't have the little bit extra I needed in the last two laps. O'Grady's a much quicker sprinter and the hill's not quite hard enough to get rid of him, so I knew I was in a catch 22. I really didn't have that much chance to win it so I just rode for third."
How it unfolded
A record field of 153 riders took the start in Buninyong, ready to race over 18 laps of a very testing 10.2 km circuit. The weather conditions were warm (28 degrees) and windy, with a head/crosswind on both sections of the climb. A large crowd (estimated at between 6000-7000 people) had also gathered to watch Australia's best riders fight it out for the championship.
The racing really started on the second lap, when a group of 15 riders went away on the climb. The group contained among others Pat Jonker, Mathew Hayman (Rabobank), Trent Wilson and Jurgen Landrie (iteamNova), and worked hard to establish a gap over the rapidly fragmenting field. But the most they could get was only a minute, with O'Grady very prominent on the front of the peloton on the climb trying to bridge across. He eventually did so along with iteamNova's David McKenzie, and a group of 13 formed in front.
On the seventh lap, it was the turn of Robbie McEwen to jump across, with the defending champion determined to show his worth again. However on lap 8 there was a short cease fire, as two groups came together to form a 40 rider leading pack. The remnants of the once massive peloton were scattered around the course as a result of the brutal early tempo, and all eventually abandoned.
The truce didn't last for long though, as 2001 Australian champion Steve Williams (NSW) powered off the front the ninth time up the climb. This turned out to be a key move, as O'Grady and Russell Van Hout (SA/Selle Italia) jumped away from the peloton near the top of the climb to bridge the gap to Williams. The three were together with a minute's lead at the end of the lap, which marked the halfway point of the race.
The inevitable reaction came in the peloton on Lap 10, halfway up the Mt Buninyong climb. Six riders, Scott Davis (Qld/Panaria), Mathew Hayman (ACT/Rabobank), Gene Bates (SA/AIS), Mark Roland (Qld), David McPartland (Vic) and Patrick Jonker (SA/Van Hemert Groep) attacked and quickly established a break on the tired peloton. They worked hard together and pulled back O'Grady's trio on the 11th lap, to form a lead group of nine.
With such a dangerous move up ahead, McEwen was forced to chase, getting help from Baden Cooke, Mick Rogers and Allan Davis. But the leaders had 1'14 on the lap 12 climb, and did not look like coming back. That's when Allan Davis, Mick Rogers, Jonathan Hall (NSW), Chris Carr (Vic) and Adrian Laidler (SA) decided to go, and the foursome pulled away from the ever diminishing peloton. They were chased in turn by Mick Rogers (ACT/Quick Step), David McKenzie (Vic/iteamNova) and Ben Brooks (NSW/Jelly Belly), but only Rogers could make contact with them.
By this stage McEwen's race was over, as there were too many riders up the road and no-one left to chase. The Davis/Rogers group eventually caught the O'Grady bunch on lap 14, to form a leading group of 14 riders.
On lap 15, Mark Roland attacked on the climb, hoping that he could force a selection that he would be a part of. It didn't work, as he was caught before the end of the lap and started to pay for it on the lap 16 climb. Russell Van Hout, Steve Williams and Adrian Laidler lost contact at this point, as the 14 man group fragmented even more. At the top of Mt Buninyong with two and a half laps to go, there was a group of seven: Stuart O'Grady, Pat Jonker, Allan Davis, Scott Davis, Gene Bates, Chris Carr and Mathew Hayman, being pursued by Rogers, Hall, Roland and McPartland, who never saw them again.
The final selection came on the penultimate lap, when Jonker attacked the leaders halfway up the climb. O'Grady and Allan Davis went with him, Gene Bates tried to chase them alone, with Hayman, Carr and Scott Davis chasing him a little further back. But the three leaders were gone, and with them the three medals. The 21 year old Bates was assured of the U23 championship, although he was picked up by Hayman and co. on the last lap.
Both Davis and Jonker were too spent on the final lap to try and attack O'Grady, who was definitely the best of the three if it came down to a sprint. The three played cat and mouse over the final kilometres, with Pat Jonker obliging with a strong leadout. O'Grady and Davis came off his wheel at 250 to go, and fought it out tooth and nail for the line, with O'Grady just getting it from a determined Davis.
So ended the BMC Software Australian Road Championships for 2003, with Stuart O'Grady becoming a very worthy winner of the green and gold jersey. It even matches his Credit Agricole gear, and he'll be eager to show it off at the front in Europe once the season gets underway in February. But his immediate goal will be the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, that starts in Adelaide on Tuesday. The winner on two previous occasions, O'Grady comes into it as a hot favourite and certainly in brilliant form for his hometown event.
Cyclingnews will be there to cover the entire race, including live reports, wrap ups, news, results and photos from Australia's biggest bike race.
Images by Kathy Watt/Watt Shotz Photography
Images by Jeff Jones/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Tim Paton
1 Stuart O'Grady (SA) Credit Agricole 4.51.37 (37.77 km/h) 2 Allan Davis (Qld) ONCE-Eroski 3 Patrick Jonker (SA) Van Hemert Groep 4 Mathew Hayman (ACT) Rabobank 1.56 5 Gene Bates (SA) AIS 6 Scott Davis (Qld) Panaria 7 Chris Carr (Vic) 8 Michael Rogers (ACT) Quick Step Davitamon 4.51 9 David McPartland (Vic) Albury/Wodonga CC 10 Jonathon Hall (NSW) Illawarra CC 11 Mark Roland (Qld) Life Cycle 12 Paul Crake (ACT) Canberra C C 7.26 13 Adrian Laidler (SA) Adelaide 12.40 14 Graeme Brown (NSW) Panaria 14.26 15 Matthew White (NSW) US Postal Service 16 Russell Van Hout (SA) Selle Italia 17 Cameron Jennings (Qld) Rockhampton 18 Simon Gerrans (Vic) Team Krone 19 Tom Leaper (Vic) Blackburn 20 Sean Sullivan (Tas) Northern Districts CC 21 Cain Pasque (Vic) Camperdown 22 Wayne Anderson (NSW) Sutherland 18.44 U23 Champion 1 Gene Bates (SA) AIS First National sprints classification 1 Russell Van Hout (SA) Selle Italia 15 pts 2 Robert Tighello (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield 11 3 Stephen Cunningham (SA) Norwood C.C. 9 Starters: 151 Finishers: 22
Steve Aitken (Tas) Hobart Wheelers Wayne Anderson (NSW) Sutherland Aaron Batchelor (Vic) Brunswick Gene Bates (SA) AIS Jason Benney-Morris (Vic) Shepparton Luke Bettany (SA) Noarlunga South Coast C.C. David Betts (Qld) AIS Pat Blannin (Qld) Gold Coast Goldstars C C Chris Bradford (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Daniel Brickell (NSW) Sutherland CC Ben Brooks (NSW) NSWIS Graeme Brown (NSW) NSWIS George Bunt (ACT) Canberra C C Leon Burger (Vic) Blackburn Brett Cahir (Vic) Melton Jonathan Cantwell (Qld) Lifecycle Christopher Carr (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield CC Darren Casey (Vic) Bendigo Brendan Cato (NSW) AIS Glen Chadwick (Qld) Rockhampton Cycle Club Anthony Challinor (NSW) Parramatta CC Phil Chapman (NSW) Northern Sydney CC Dane Cheers (SA) Norwood C.C. Matthew Chessum (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield CC Hilton Clarke (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Jonathan Clarke (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Garry Clively (Vic) Coburg Damien Cook (Vic) Horsham CC Baden Cooke (Vic) FDJuex.com Geoffrey Cooke (NSW) Sutherland Shire Peter Cottam (Vic) Footscray Paul Crake (ACT) Canberra C C Carl Cubitt (Vic) Coburg CC Stephen Cunningham (SA) Norwood C.C. John Dam (Vic) Bendigo Jonathan Davis (NSW) NSWIS Scott Davis (Qld) Panaria Brent Dawson (NSW) NSWIS Peter Dawson (WA) AIS Ben Day (Qld) Cycleogical Tim Decker (Vic) Bendigo Camiel Denis (Ned) Team Espoirs Hunter/Albert-Heijn Anthony Di Battista (Vic) Blackburn Alex Dimitrivich (SA) Norwood CC Scott Dixon (NSW) Dubbo CC Jamie Drew (Vic) Flanders - Iteamnova Bart Duraj (NSW) Astra Merida Cadel Evans (Vic) Team Telekom Manwel Falcon (Vic) Coburg CC Nick Gates (Qld) C.A.T.S. Chris George (SA) Norwood C.C. Simon Gerrans (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Lee Godfrey (Vic) AIS Marcel Gono (Vic) St Kilda CC Benjamin Goodman (WA) Southern Districts C C Matthew Goold (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Andrew Graham (Vic) Port Fairy Jonathon Hall (NSW) Illawarra CC James Hannam (SA) Norwood C.C. David Harrigan (NSW) Parramatta CC Mathew Hayman (ACT) Rabobank Mark Heintz (Vic) Brunswick David Hennesy (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Carl Holleman (NSW) Central Coast CC Tim Hucker (Vic) Bendigo Cameron Hughes (Qld) Biciport Ashley Hutchinson (Qld) AIS Allan Iacuone (Vic) Flanders - Iteamnova Matthew Jackson (Vic) Footscray Alexander James (Vic) Brunswick CC Mark Jamieson (Tas) Mersey Valley CC Todd Jasper (Vic) Coburg Cameron Jennings (Qld) Rockhampton Patrick Jonker (SA) Aemert Group Liam Kelly (NSW) Eastern Suburbs CC Aaron Kemps (Qld) AIS Paul Kenny (Vic) Melton Shayne Kirby (Vic) Broadford/Seymour Adrian Laidler (SA) Adelaide Jurgen Laundrie (Bel) Flanders - Iteamnova Jade Lean (SA) Norwood Tom Leaper (Vic) Blackburn Paul Logan (Vic) Coburg Cycling Club Inc Robert Lyte (NSW) Hinchinbrook Daniel Mackey (WA) Southern Districts Caleb Manion (Tas) West Tamar CC Glen Matulich (SA) Adelaide Craig McCartney (Vic) Geelong West C C Niall McDonagh (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield CC Robbie McEwen (Qld) C.A.T.S. Bruce McIntosh (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield David McKenzie (Vic) Flanders - Iteamnova David McPartland (Vic) Albury/Wodonga CC James Meadley (ACT) Canberra C C Karl Menzies (Tas) Mersey Valley Devonport CC Peter Milostic (NSW) Penrith Panthers Eugene Moriarty (Ire) Cyceeways-Lee Strand Adam Murchie (Vic) Footscray Dylan Newell (Vic) Brunswick Cycling Club Inc Matt Newlands (Qld) Victor CC Terry Nightingale (Qld) Ffast Stuart O'Grady (SA) Credit Agricole Garry Parsons (Vic) Camperdown Cain Pasque (Vic) Camperdown Julian Paynter (Vic) St Kilda C C David Pell (Vic) Bendigo & District CC Jason Phillips (Qld) C.A.T.S. Rhys Pollock (NSW) Albury/Wodonga CC Adam Pyke (Vic) Chelsea & Peninsula C C Paul Redenbach (Vic) Footscray Mark Renshaw (NSW) AIS Luke Roberts (SA) Team Comnet Senges Michael Rogers (ACT) Canberra Cycling Club Mark Roland (Qld) Life Cycle Nathan Russell (NSW) Caravello Joinery CC Nicholas Sanderson (Vic) Ararat&District Cycling Club Brendan Shipp (NSW) St George CC Brent Skippen (NSW) Parramatta CC Klayten Smith (NSW) Caravello Joinery CC Rhys Smith (Vic) Footscray Ric Steele (WA) Northern Districts CC Cody Stevenson (NSW) Penrith Panthers CC Glenn Stojanow (NSW) Parramatta CC Sean Sullivan (Tas) Northern Districts CC Bernard Sulzberger (Tas) AIS Jacob Sunderland (Vic) Brunswick Rory Sutherland (ACT) Rabobank Christopher Sutton (NSW) St George CC Corey Sweet (SA) Credit Agricole Jay Sweet (SA) Central Districts David Tanner (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Colin Thornton (Vic) Broadford Seymour CC Phillip Thuaux (NSW) Central Coast CC Robert Tighello (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Martin Tobin (Vic) Wangaratta Cycling Club Inc Andrew Torney (Vic) Footscray Franco Ursino (SA) Norwood CC Russell Van Hout (SA) Adelaide CC Ben Vanderkamp (Qld) Victor CC Patrick Varas (Vic) Footscray Henk Vogels (WA) Simon Walker (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Andrew Ward (Vic) Coburg CC Luke Weir (Vic) Carnegie Caulfield Matt White (NSW) NSWIS Marc Williams (ACT) Canberra C C Steven Williams (NSW) Sutherland Shire CC Matt Wilson (Vic) Chelsea & Peninsula Trent Wilson (NSW) Flanders - Iteamnova Stephen Wooldridge (NSW) St George CC Ralph Zimmermann (Swi) VC Mendrisio - PL Valli