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7th Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under - 2.HC

Australia, January 18-23, 2005

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News for January 23, 2005

Jean-Marie gets to know the locals

By Gerard Knapp in Aldinga Beach

Jean-Marie Leblanc
Photo ©: CN
Click for larger image

Despite the dark sunglasses and cap, there was no mistaking the presence of Jean-Marie Leblanc at the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. Indeed, many spectators also recognised the race director of the world's biggest bike race, and Leblanc warmly received the friendly greetings extended by the Australian spectators, who practiced their worst French with a, "bon jour Jean-Marie, welcome to Australia, have a great stay".

In fact, one of the race marshals remarked how at ease he seemed. "He said he likes it here, so I said next time you come you should bring your togs (swimming costume) so he can have a swim at the beach," he said. "But he reckons there's too many sharks! I said don't worry about them, they're bloody everywhere!"

At the start-finish line of the women's criterium circuit at Aldinga Beach - that also served as part of the stage 5 parcours for the men's race - Leblanc was on hand to present the flowers to race winner, Natalie Bates, and helped overall series winner, Jenny Macpherson, into her winner's jersey, taking over from Bernard Hinault in this coveted role.

While presenting flowers and jerseys to winners of a criterium at a relatively quiet South Australian beachside town is a far cry from the million-plus crowds along the Champs Elysées, it has to be said the Le Tour's director displayed keen interest and enthusiasm for the racing, and warmly congratulated the winners. He has won more than a few new fans in South Australia.

Images by Gerard Knapp/Cyclingnews.com

  • Jean-Marie Leblanc soaks up the Aussie atmosphere in Aldinga Beach
  • Jean-Marie Leblanc congratulates Natalie Bates after she won race 3 of the Advertiser Women's Criterium Championships

Image by CJ Farquharson

  • Race director of the Tour de France, Jean-Marie Leblanc helps Jenny Macpherson into the yellow jersey

With parents like these....

By Gerard Knapp in Aldinga Beach

Alexis Rhodes
Photo ©: Rachel Burke
Click for larger image

It could only happen in Australia, where one of the country's most promising young track and road sprinters would have parents as both her biggest supporters - and tormentors. But such is the lot of Alexis Rhodes, who had to race with the graffiti "I'm a wanka" across the front of her helmet, written in marker-pen by none other than her father, Greg.

So, is this your father's kind of reverse psychology? Cyclingnews asked. "No, it's just dad," she answered with a roll of the eyes and air of unmistakable resignation, as if it was something she had become quite used to.

Fatherly pranks aside, her parents did move to South Australia from the desert city of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, primarily to assist in the development of their daughter's cycling career. Even as a teenager, Rhodes made the seniors sit up and take notice, as she displayed fearless attacking and a level of aggression that is uncommon in women's racing. This is countered by a natural demeanour off the bike, helped no doubt by her parents providing a solid ‘grounding'. While cycling is important, so is completing her university degree and once she passes, then the professional world waits.

Rhodes had taken out the first round of The Advertiser women's criterium series in Adelaide, held in conjunction with the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under, and is on a steep trajectory in world cycling. Cyclingnews has overheard a very experienced competitor from a track cycling superpower remark how much they wish they had talented riders like Rhodes coming through their training system.

The 20 year-old started cycling in the hot and arid outback centre at 13, where one has to really love the sport to continue. Helped in the early years by former South Australian cyclist John Piper, a contemporary of Stuart O'Grady's, the teenager started collecting state and national medals with regularity and was quickly identified by nationals selectors.

This year, it's expected that Rhodes will also spend time with the Australian Institute of Sport's road racing base in Italy, under the guidance of coach Warren McDonald, who has also developed riders such as Oenone Wood and Olivia Gollan.

Greg Rhodes paid tribute to the early help and encouragement provided by Piper, who now works in Alice Springs. "Yeah, he's a fireman in the Alice, so he's got plenty of time on his hands!"

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