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Australian Open Road Championships - CN
Mt Torrens, Australia, January 11-January 14, 2006
Race 3 - January 11: Elite Men's Time Trial, 40 km
Seventh heaven for O'Neill
By Les Clarke in Mt Torrens, with additional reporting by Kathie Stove
It was title number seven for Queensland's Nathan O'Neill, who displayed the same will to win as he had when a schoolboy, according to long-time mentor, John Osborne. And it showed, with O'Neill dominating a field that included CSC rider Luke Roberts, Colombia-Selle Italia's Russell Van Hout and fellow Queenslanders Ben Day and Peter Herzig. These four riders were O'Neill's main targets at each time split, and one-by-one they fell by the wayside.
On the demanding 20km circuit, O'Neill started his ride at a high tempo, cresting the first climb in good time and settled into an early rhythm, powering up each subsequent climb and hitting over 90km/h on several of the descents. The Mt Torrens course didn't allow riders any real respite, and with the 31-year-old bearing down on them at a rate of knots, his rivals were never given any room for error.
After some slight hiccups at 'Team O'Neill' it was soon a matter of picking off each rider he encountered, passing Russell Van Hout, Ben Day, Peter Herzig and Peter Dawson before setting his sights on CSC's Luke Roberts, who started his ride five minutes ahead of Health Net's new Australian signing. By the final turnaround point O'Neill had made up over three minutes on Roberts, finishing just under three minutes ahead of Roberts in what was one of his best performances to date.
Not even a mechanical mishap could slow O'Neill down very much, losing approximately ten seconds after dropping his chain before the final climb. But by that stage of the race any small time losses were purely mathetical; for all purposes O'Neill had wrapped up his seventh national time trial title, his fourth in the last five seasons. "It wasn't easy at all. It was really, really solid. I just kept rolling my over all the way through, trying to put the wind up everybody else and make them realise they would have to fight for it," he said after his ride. "I didn't want to give them a look in from the start so I hit them really hard on the first lap. I don't know if everybody cracked or if I just got a pretty decent gap but I just put it on cruise control after a little while," he added.
O'Neill suffered a minor setback in training, like he did in the race, but everything worked out very well in the end. "Everything else was really good. I had good preparation leading up to it except that on New Year's Day I came down with giardia - water poisoning. But in hindsight it probably did me the world of good; I was just starting my taper at that point and it gave me three days off the bike which was probably worth it. Things worked out well."
Second-placed rider, Luke Roberts, was happy with his form on the time trial course, having taken a longer break after his European road season finished. "I had a big break at the end of last season; I finished up early, around the end of September, and had a good six-week break which I needed after the previous season. I had a long, slow pre-season at the beginning of November, with lots of slow kilometres, and in December we had team building camp."
Roberts explained that he hadn't been in time trial mode for quite some time, before complimenting the strength of O'Neill. "I thought I'd jump on the time trial bike this week and have a couple of little hitouts, knowing I'd be in reasonable fitness, but not top shape. I'm happy with a silver medal - Nathan's always hard to beat."
Ben Day, having been passed by O'Neill early in the race, also knew his fellow Queenslander was going to be hard to beat, but wasn't too disappointed with the bronze medal. "He obviously did the first lap really quickly; he wanted to come out and blow us all away, which he did, and I heard he'd been training well after targetting this race. I came here today for a good solid ride and lay the foundation for the rest of the year, and that's where I wanted to be. I'm happy with third place today," he said.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mark Gunter/www.pbase.com/gunterphotograph
1 Nathan O'Neill (Qld) Health Net 53.14.74 (45.07 km/h) 2 Luke Roberts (SA) CSC 2.59.23 3 Ben Day (Qld) Carvalhelhos-Boavista 3.12.14 4 Russell Van Hout (SA) 3.16.35 5 Tony Mann (Qld) 3.26.14 6 Adam Hansen (Qld) 3.59.68 7 Peter Milostic (NSW) 4.49.22 8 Peter Herzig (Qld) 5.33.71 9 David Pell (Vic) 5.45.80 10 Joshua Collingwood (SA) 5.57.28 11 Peter Dawson (WA) 6.42.49 12 Joshua Marden (NSW) 7.52.60 13 Anthony Osbrough (Qld) 10.19.58 14 Reece-Emerson Van Beek (Vic) 11.45.36 15 Mark Wall (NSW) 11.49.72 16 Nicholas Shipp (Vic) 11.54.09 17 Mark Hooper (Vic) 12.12.71 18 Hamish Mackirdy (SA) 12.13.30 19 Peter Montford (NSW) 13.50.82 20 Kelvin Martin (NSW) 13.54.76 21 Phil Hayes-St.Clair (Qld) 14.14.46 22 Brian Crawford (NSW) 15.22.58 23 Stephen Blair (ACT) 16.01.62 24 Errol Schmidt (SA) 16.43.78 25 Phillip Chapman (NSW) 20.23.82 DNF Dieter Georg (SA) DNF Corey Roberts (SA) DNF Martin Tobin (Vic) DNS Troy Glennan (NSW) DNS Andrew Hanigan (Tas) DNS Mitchell Anderson (Vic) DNS Luke Bell (Vic) Russell Van Hout fined $20 for folding his race number