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Australian Junior and Teams Road Championships - NE
Sunshine Coast, Australia, September 2-September 10, 2006
By John-Michael Flynn
The stars of Australia's recent multiple World Championship winning junior track team will hit the roads of Queensland's Sunshine Coast this week, when the Sunshine State plays host to the 2006 National Junior & Teams Road Cycling Championships and the Women's National Grand Prix Series.
The headline act in the week long carnival of cycling won't come from the senior ranks, with the field in tomorrow's Under 19 men's road race containing national and world champions.
"Fantastic quality," was how Cycling Australia's Tom Skulander described the field during the official event launch at picturesque Peregian Springs.
Skulander was referring to the recent performances of Western Australia's magnificent Meyer brothers, Victoria's Leigh Howard, South Australia's Jack Bobridge and Queensland's Hayden Josefski, who together brought home a bagful of gold medals at the recent World Junior Track Championships in Ghent, Belgium.
The Meyer brothers, who picked themselves up off the deck to win gold alongside Howard and Bobridge in the teams pursuit, also paired up to win the Madison. Cameron Meyer's gold medal in the individual pursuit made it three World Championships for the Perth brothers.
"It's always a bit of a question after a World Championship which was held only three weeks ago, for some of these guys to come back again and step up the motivation," Skulander said. "It's a fair ask, and it's an opportunity for the others."
Participant numbers have risen again for the Junior National Championships in 2006, with Australia's best young cyclist in the under 15,17 and 19 age groups competing in road races, criteriums, individual and two person time trials over four continuous days of racing.
"The guys that were highlighted last year, they've gone on to win world championship medals, and that's what this event is all about," said event manager Geoff Meyer. "It's exciting to see the next Robbie McEwens, the next Lorian Graham's coming through."
Graham the event ambassador
Returning to the week-long carnival of cycling for the second time as an event ambassador, injured A.I.S. cyclist Lorian Graham offered plenty of encouragement to competitors.
The inspirational Graham, still recovering from her fifth operation since the horrific crash which killed team-mate Amy Gillett in Germany, was a winner on the Sunshine Coast in the event's previous guise as the National Club Road Championships.
In 2006, the women's races (individual time trial, road race and criterium) will be part of the national women's grand prix series.
While entries have been below expected, Graham says there are plenty of reasons for Australia's emerging female cyclists to compete. "Its an opportunity for these young ones to come through and shine, to prove themselves," Graham said. "I know for sure, that selectors are always watching these races."
New look teams championship
The establishment of a national teams championship for men, which will replace the Australian "club" road nationals, will consist of three races, a team time trial, road race and criteriums and will be held from September 8 to 10. The new championship is modelled on a more "European" style of racing.
The inaugural National Teams Championship field will be made up largely of teams from the S.E.Q. Tour, which have been trialling the concept, along with the visiting Drapac Porsche, FRF Couriers ExcelPro and Jayco VIS teams.
The concept is designed around a bigger picture goal, of getting young Australian riders more adapted to the concept of team riding and the tactics involved.
"Youre talking about changing the culture of Australian cycling," said Cycling Australia's Tom Skulander. "Australian cycling over the years has always been for everybody to get out there and have a go, to start now forming those people into teams is a big ask."
Speaking after his podium performance at last weekend's Queensland Road Championships, the Triple Play SEQ Tour team's Dave Betts fired the opening shots of what might in time develop into a fierce rivalry. "I'd like to give it a nudge," Betts said of the National Teams Championship race. "I haven't lost on the Sunshine Coast yet, so hopefully we can do the same thing to the boys down south as when they came up at the start of the year."