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South East Queensland International Criterium #3 - NE
Surfers Paradise, December 8, 2002
McEwen tops dream weekend with win at Surfers
By Lawrie Cranley
Robbie McEwen continued his dream run today when he took out the inaugural South East Queensland International Criterium event at Surfers Paradise today. The victory here today was a winning double for McEwen named Australian Cyclist of the Year in Sydney on Saturday night.
The third race of the Summer of Cycling Series being promoted by United Sports Marketing staged in the heart of Surfers Paradise was a winner with cyclists and spectators as the people of Surfers Paradise embraced the event. A sensational crowd turned out to witness some of Australia's best cyclists.
On the start line was one of the best ever assembled fields in Australia with local hero Robbie McEwen, winner of the green sprint jersey at this years Tour de France, Brad McGee, stage winner at Tour de France and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist in the Individual Pursuit, Baden Cooke who was 9th at this years World Road Championships, Matt White, winner of the 2002 Noosa Criterium from US Postal, Henk Vogels from Mercury, Nick Gates soon to be Lotto Domo, Matt Wilson La Francaise de Jeux and a host of Queensland born professionals: Nathan O'Neill from Panaria, Jason Phillips, young guns including Allan Davis of ONCE, his brother Scott of Panaria, Mark Rowlands and David Betts of Team Down Under and Jon Cantwell who although not pro yet will no doubt be soon.
The course had everything for the riders and spectators being a tight and technical 950 metres right in the heart of Surfers Paradise taking in the Cavill Mall, Beach Road and the night Club and restaurant areas. This was not a course to be taken lightly and anyone with intentions of doing well knew they had to be at the pointy end of this race. It was only for the strong and skilled.
So it was on from the gun and the field was quickly strung out. A huge crowd had gathered in the mall with bands playing and restaurants full and people cheering as the riders came through each time. Surfers Paradise had never seen action like this in its heart before.
McEwen made his intentions clear and immediately went to the head of the race and set a fierce pace causing reactions from Cooke, Rowlands and Cantwell who followed and established a small lead after five laps. Down the back of the field riders were being forced to take risks to stay in contact and it was John McMillan who overcooked it into the bottom corner sliding down and causing a split in the field that caused some riders to lose contact with the race and eventually be lapped.
The front group steadily rode away from the field and after fifteen minutes were out of sight (of the field) on the long finishing straight. Riders in the main field saw the danger signs and panic set in as they realised they had missed the decisive break. There were a number of attacks but all too quickly they were reeled in until Matt White and Allan Davis broke free and were establishing a nice gap when Davis crashed on the tight corner out of the mall leaving White to be swallowed up again by the main field. Davis rejoined the race after a lap out but later retired with a bruised shoulder and abrasions. The same corner claimed another two pros a few laps later when Gates who had been riding as watchdog for McEwen, slid down hitting his knee on the kerb and bringing down Nathan O'Neill and others in the process.
While confusion reigned in the main group the leading quartet rode a controlled race at the front and it became inevitable that they would lap the main field.
They were with the main field with fifteen minutes to go. McEwen who is a master tactican seized the opportunity to continue through the field and again rode off the front this time only Rowlands and the previously unlucky Matt White could follow. Rowlands soon realised that second place was assured if he and McEwen could stay ahead of the chasing group lead by Cooke's team mated McGee and Wilson. White was also contributing with solid turns at the front assuring they would stay away.
The race had been turned upside down with three riders in the front, two who had come from the lead group and White who was a lap down while back in the main group there were two unlapped riders sitting in the group.
Under Criterium rules if the main group is lapped they have their finish at three laps to go leaving the lead riders to battle it out. So at three laps to go White dropped out of the front group taking 5th place as it would not have been possible for him to catch Cooke and Cantwell and the main group sprinted for 6th to 10th with Terry Nightingale launching himself out of the final corner and winning the sprint from brother Brad. The three Nightingale brothers have been the find of this domestic criterium season with their aggressive and entertaining style of racing.
So it was now down to four riders on the circuit. Cooke and Cantwell had accepted their fate and were riding for third and fourth while up front Rowlands had other ideas, relentlessly attacking McEwen knowing he had little chance in a sprint but alas a sprint it was to be.
There was not a chance in a million of McEwen letting a win in the inaugural Surfers Paradise Criterium on his home turf slip from his grasp.
McEwen crossed the line with his arms in the air and a broad smile. Although it doesn't compare to many of his successes in Europe this year it was obvious this win had a great deal of satisfaction for him.
McEwen later said "I really enjoyed it out there today, it's a fantastic event and the crowd really helped me get over the line. It's great to race in front of my home crowd which I never get to do."
Jon Cantwell held off a shattered Baden Cooke who had ridden a hard race today.
The morning's racing kicked off with the Corporate Criterium with ideal conditions for riders as they enjoyed riding over the same course and format as the professional guys. These corporate races are proving very popular with cyclists who would like to test the water before jumping into cycling in a more serious way. The race ended in a sprint finish with G Coco taking the sprint from Andrew Charles.
Next up there was a hot field of B and C grade riders and there was action a plenty. There were a few incidents on the corners that split the field into a number of groups. Eventually the race came down to seventeen riders in the lead and a few favourites including Terry Peters taken out by mishaps. However Peters team mate Tim Bartlett restored all pride by smashing the field in the sprint finish. Rick Walker was second and Robert Dewer third. Bartlett powerful sprint is going to prove difficult to beat this season.
One race remains in the series now at South Bank on 14/15th December 2002 where the racing is expected to be just as hot.
Images by Tim Francis/yourfotos.com
A Grade 1 Robbie McEwen 2 Mark Rowlands 3 Jon Cantwell 4 Baden Cooke 5 Matt White 6 Terry Nightingale 7 Brad Nightingale 8 Craig Cahill 9 Warren Scott 10 Adrian Booth B Grade 1 Tim Bartlett 2 Rick Walker 3 Robert Dewer 4 Daniel Zmboka 5 Ben Mockridge Corporate Criterium 1 G Coco 2 A Charles 3 M Davis