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Australian Open Road Championships - CN
Ballarat, Australia, January 11-14, 2007
Stage 4 - January 13: U23 men's road race, 122.4 km
Team South Australia.com - AIS effort highlights individual win
Sulzberger nets jersey
By Mark Zalewski in Ballarat, Victoria
The South Australia.com - AIS team brought nine riders to the U23 championships, and it seemed they used all of them on their way to the jersey and the top three spots on the podium -- to go along with their time trial championship from the other day. Wesley Sulzberger (Tas) outsprinted his teammate Cameron Meyer (WA) after the two rode away from their four teammates in a seven rider break with a little more than two laps remaining.
Sulzberger has had most of his success as a criterium racer, but was able to adapt to the tough road course in Buniyong. "I didn't know whether to go on the third lap or the second -- probably a bit too early, but lucky I had a teammate come across and help out," Sulzberger said about the closing laps. "I didn't know he was coming across until he was almost on me, but then I waited the last bit. Then he worked with me to the finish and helped me stay away."
How it unfolded
The first main move of the race came from another South Australia.com - AIS rider, the racently crowned U23 time trial champion Zakkari Dempster (Vic), who decided to try another solo time trial after the first full lap. "Of course he wasn't as focused on this so he took on the role of putting himself out there early," said Sulzberger about Dempster's move. "He wasn't told to do anything but he did it and it worked in our favour."
Dempster lasted for a few laps but was eventually caught. Following that, Sulzberger and his teammates rode a textbook team race that resulted in a five versus one match-up in the final break, with only Drapac-Porsche's Dean Windsor (NSW) spoiling the party. Windsor actually started the party with an attack up the main hill that really got things going. "It was pretty easy up the hill early on," said Windsor. "So I thought, 'I'm not waiting around for the South Australia guys to wack up the hill, so I thought I would try to get a head start on them. Then it was probably my worst nightmare when I looked around and saw five South Australia guys coming across!"
"I just hoped there was a Drapac guy in there," Windsor continued. " We had two coming but they just couldn't hold on. The next four laps I was just on there for the ride. I tried everything, tried to trick them and attacked on the hill, but it was like ended up on a South Australia.com training ride!"
From there it was only a matter of time as the South Australia.com - AIS riders took turns turning the screws on Windsor. "I'm shattered I didn't get up for the win, but you gotta do the team thing," third place Simon Clarke (Vic) admitted. "That's the thing, every time I attacked, Windsor followed me and every time Wes went he let him go."
Sulzberger made his move on the climb with three laps to go. With him away the team sat on Windsor's wheel for the next few kilometers, until Cameron Meyer jumped across without Windsor in tow. It took some time since neither had a radio and Sulzberger did not know that the chaser behind was a teammate -- though the odds were certianly in that favour. Eventually, Meyer made it across on the descent toward the finish line with one lap to go.
The two rode evenly, trading turns to extend and insure a team victory. "We talked and knew we had to swap off in order to stay away," said Meyer. After cresting the climb for the final time, the two began to think about the jersey waiting at the finish line. "I knew he is a good sprinter so I gave him an attack around the back straight, but he was too good and jumped straight on me," Meyer continued. "I was out front a lot, but that is they way I ride. If I was in back I might miss the break so I was glad I was out there."
After catching back up to Meyer, the two made the sharp turn onto the main highway that contained the finish a little more than a kilometer away. The pace was kept high by Sulzberger to dissuade another attach by Meyer until about 600 meters to go. With Sulzberger slowing, Meyer was forced to first wheel and the two kept decelerating. "I made sure I was going to get a bit of a run-up on him, not come off his wheel and be dead," said Sulzberger.
The two moved back and forth across the road at 400 meters creeping along at well under 30 km/h. For the next 250 meters, Sulzberger waited behind Meyer with the speed still slowing. It seemed as though he might have been to patient until 150 meters when he made his move and bested his teammate by a wheel on the line. Still, Sulzberger gives a lot of credit to Meyer. "Cam was on the front a lot today and had a solid ride. Also a good ride by Windsor, but Cameron was there with him, so I reckon the ride of the day goes to him."
Simon Clarke brought the rest of the group in with Windsor, and had a hard fight for third place to finish the sweep. "Dean and I attacked the shit out of each other the last couple of laps... we were both going good and couldn't get away. It just came down to the finishing sprint and the track racer in me came out in the finish."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mark Gunter/www.pbase.com/gunterphotograph
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
1 Wesley Sulzberger (Tas) 3.15.00