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107th Jefferson Ford Austral Wheelrace - NE

Melbourne, Australia, February 26, 2005

2004 Results    Results     History

You're simply the best: Kersten better than all the rest

By Mal Sawford in Melbourne

Ben Kersten has the taste for the 2005 Jefferson Ford Austral Wheelrace.
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Click for larger image

Ben Kersten dominated the 107th running of the Austral Wheelrace, taking the prestigious 2000 metre Handicap by the length of the straight, and showing his class, power and speed in every event on the program.

Not since the days of Stephen Pate, the only four-time winner of the Austral, have spectators witnessed such a dominant display, with the 'Kilo specialist' showing his versatility in sprints, motor paced races and long scratch races. Even more remarkable given the fact that Kersten had only arrived in Melbourne twenty minutes before the Carnival commenced after running into trouble getting his bike off the plane!

How it unfolded

A great crowd turned out
Photo ©: Shane Goss
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A little over 100 riders were dived into six heats, with only three riders awarded the honour of riding from the 'Scratch' mark: Kersten, Todd Wilksch and two time winner Darren Young. Handicapper Laurie Norris had earned Kersten's wrath for putting all three in the same heat, which had made headline news in one of the local daily newspapers. The oldest rider in the field, Ian Morwood, at 67 years of age earned a mark of 245 metres - virtually a full lap head start around the 250 metre Vodafone Arena.

The early heats saw success to riders from the front marks, with Michael Walsh (100% Cycles) taking the first heat, and Tobias Lennon the second. Warren Scott (Colnago) impressed winning the third heat, while regular Canberra raider Joel Stewart took the fourth heat.

Melbourne based Kiwi Andrew Shannon hit out with just under two laps remaining in the fifth heat, and opened a commanding lead, before new Australian Keirin Champion Joel Leonard (Giramondo Sportswear) burst from the pack at the bell and came within inches of snatching the heat from the consistent finalist.

Ben Kersten
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Click for larger image

The final heat contained the three Scratchmen, and followed a similar pattern to the previous heat. This time it was Jeremy McLay (Kennedy Cycle Fit) who jumped early, and Kersten who flew from the back of the pack. Kersten seemed content to qualify second in the heat, with Young (TIS/cyclingnews) the second Scratch rider to qualify.

The on-course bookmaker had Kersten an almost unbackable 6-4 favourite for the final, but the two back markers faced a long chase with the only support likely to come from Leonard and Brad Norton (VIS), both riding from 20 metres.

From the start, the twenty-four finalists quickly settled into four distinct groups. The backmarkers had a disastrous start, with Leonard slow off the mark and unable to latch onto a flying Young. It took over a lap for the foursome to regroup.

Scratchman Joel Leonard (L)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
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The front group combined well, with Walsh keeping the chase at bay. At the halfway mark of the eight lap race, the two middle groups had combined, but seemed to be lacking someone to take charge. With three laps to go, the back markers were finally in full flight, with firstly Norton charging towards the middle markers, then Kersten's NSWIS team mate Stephen Fitzpatrick finishing the job at two to go as Young fell off the pace.

Walsh eased away from the front markers just as the bunch made contact, and at the bell the surviving backies were still forty metres in arrears. Leonard charged around the outside, with Kersten on his wheel, and as Walsh entered the back straight, Kersten pounced, accelerating away from the pack to take the win easily.

Scott took second place in a tight sprint from Stewart and Steven Sansonetti (BT Bike Technologies Australia), with Leonard just out of the money.

Darren Young (TIS/Cyclingnews)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Click for larger image

Kersten denied the win had been a formality, saying "It definitely wasn't easy. I really wanted to commit a long way out and just secure the victory. I didn't want to leave anything to chance here tonight, it's my last race of the year in Australia, and I didn't want to have any regrets, so I went out hard and early and it paid off. It's a big race, with a lot of prestige, and I really wanted to put my name in the books, but you can't promise how your form's going to be, or what other riders are doing. You could crash, so I try not to think about it too much."

The winner also straightened out his differences with the handicapper, autographing a copy of the offending Herald Sun article after his win. "It's a bit daunting when you see it the first time. Todd Wilksch is a great rider, and he missed out (on the final). All I was worried about when I saw the three names (in the same heat) was I knew a great name would miss out, and just hoped it wasn't me! I said to him 'no disrespect, it's his job, and my job's riding the bike - and we're not always going to see eye to eye. Nothing against him, he did his job, and it turned out to be a good handicap in the end, I guess - my bad!"

Support events

Thumbs up
Photo ©: Shane Goss
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Kersten's amazing night kicked off with a Sprint Derby and Motorpace double against Leonard and Wilksch. Coming from third wheel in both races, his acceleration at the bell blew Leonard and Wilksch away, recording easy wins.

The three top sprinters sat out the Elimination, with the win going to Young, who survived a coming together with Stephen Fitzpatrick in the final laps, before taking the win from Peter Fitzpatrick (NSWIS) and Zak Dempster (Drapac - Porsche Development Team).

Kersten finally had his colours lowered in the Keirin, after waltzing through his heat in fine style. Once again he elected to slot into last wheel - refusing to let anyone try to follow him, the powering around the field in the back straight to qualify while clearly back pedalling down the straight and playing up for the crowd.

Leonard took the Aussie Keirin Title with a strong early move, and having got the better of Kersten in Sydney, chose the same tactic again. With Kersten on his wheel, Leonard ripped away from pack with a lap and half to go, and with a desperate effort held off the otherwise unbeatable Kersten by wheel at the line. Leonard celebrated his win in style, punching the air and proudly pointing out the green and gold bands on his National Champions jersey to all the spectators.

Kersten was full of praise for the winner describing his ride as "Awesome. He's in fine form here and is turning out to be a real pleasure to watch, and I have no doubt he'll be in the national team very shortly."

The traditional finale of any Cyclists International carnival is the Aces Scratch race, with the night's race named in honour of Lance De Luca, who was awarded posthumous Life Membership of the promoting body. Richard England (VIS) looked to have stolen the race with a powerful attack ten laps from home, as the pursuit specialist opened a 100 metre gap.

With thunderous encouragement from the big crowd, cheering for a second home town win, England was still well clear with a lap and a half to the line. Unfortunately for him, Kersten had one more devastating finish left, and burst from the back to fly past the shell shocked leader for his fourth win of the night.


We're everywhere!
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Click for larger image

A competitive Women's bunch contested both a Scratch Race and Handicap. Tess Downing (Drapac - Porsche Development Team) sprinted to good win ahead of fellow Under 19 rider Peta Mullens and New Zealand international Liz Williams, while former Junior World Champion Rahna Demarte made a welcome come back to racing with a convincing win in the Handicap from Williams and Downing.

Under 17

Leigh Howard normally dominates junior racing - he recently won the Victorian Time Trial Championships on an outdoor track in a time faster than Anna Meares' World Record! At the Australian Madison Carnival he had seemed a little below par, and only won one of his two events. Tonight, it was back to business as usual, with the Geelong youngster streaking the field in both the Motorpace and Scratch Races.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Shane Goss/Cyclingnews/www.licoricegallery.com

Images by John Veage

Images by CJ Farquharson

Images by John Veage


Drapac - Porsche Development Program C Grade Scratch Race
1 Charles Howlett (Latrobe City)                              
2 Darren Spiteri (Latrobe City)                               
3 Glenn Baldwin (Bendigo)                                     
4 Stuart Vaughan (Hawthorn )                                  
Eva's Caulfield Florist B Grade Scratch
1 Andrew Shannon (New Zealand)                                
2 Michael Walsh (Melton)                                      
3 Marc Prutton (Blackburn)                                    
4 Dean Stewart (Northcote)                                    
Hlp Home Loans A Grade Scratch Race
1 Laurie Noonan (Brunswick)                                   
2 Adrian Salter (Footscray)                                   
3 Sean Pontelandolfo (Bendigo)                                
4 Joshua Gundry (Bendigo)                                     
Bicycle Superstore Sprint Derby
1 Ben Kersten (NSW)                                           
2 Joel Leonard (Footscray)                                    
3 Todd Wilksch (Horsham)                                      
Drapac - Porsche Development Program Aces Elimination
1 Darren Young (Tasmania)                                     
2 Peter Fitzpatrick (NSW)                                     
3 Zak Dempster (Bendigo)                                      
4 Richard England (Blackburn)                                 
Bicycle Superstore Motorpace
1 Ben Kersten (NSW)                                           
2 Joel Leonard (Footscray)                                    
3 Todd Wilksch (Horsham)                                      
John Beasley Cycles Invitational M17 Motorpace
1 Leigh Howard (Geelong West)                                 
2 Anthony Rix (Bendigo)                                       
3 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Peninsula)                       
4 Glenn O'shea (Bendigo)                                      
The Reuters Dealing 3000m Women's Scratch Race
1 Tess Downing (Carnegie Caulfield)                           
2 Peta Mullens (Latrobe City)                                 
3 Liz Williams (New Zealand)                                  
4 Jessica Tanner (Shepparton)                                 
107th Jefferson Ford Austral Wheelrace Heats

Heat 1
1 Michael Walsh (Melton) 200                        2.10.89
2 Sean Pontelandolfo (Bendigo) 140                         
3 Peter Tsebelis (Latrobe City) 205                        
4 Steven Young (Geelong West) 200                          
Heat 2
1 Tobias Lennon (Bendigo) 115                       2.13.66
2 Tony Jones (Bendigo) 170                                 
3 Dean Stewart (Northcote) 170                             
4 Glenn Baldwin (Bendigo) 200                              
Heat 3
1 Warren Scott (NSW) 90                             2.15.32
2 Jamie Goddard (Blackburn) 110                            
3 Hamish Taylor (Northcote) 80                             
4 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastapol) 120                    
Heat 4
1 Joel Stewart (ACT) 110                            2.10.80
2 Laurie Noonan (Brunswick) 150                            
3 Stephen Fitzpatrick (NSW) 80                             
4 Ian Smith (Carnegie Caulfield) 170                       
Heat 5
1 Andrew Shannon (New Zealand) 170                  2.09.58
2 Joel Leonard (Footscray) 20                              
3 Steven Sansonetti (Northcote) 90                         
4 Alexander James (Brunswick) 120                          
Heat 6
1 Jeremy Mclay (Chelsea & Peninsula) 115            2.09.67
2 Ben Kersten (NSW) Scratch                                   
3 Brad Norton (Shepparton) 20                                 
4 Darren Young (Tasmania) Scratch                             
John Beasley Cycles Invitational M17 Scratch Race
1 Leigh Howard (Geelong West)                                 
2 Michael Downing (Carnegie Caulfield)                        
3 Anthony Rix (Bendigo)                                       
4 Glenn O'shea (Bendigo)                                      
107Th Jefferson Ford Austral Wheelrace 

 Peter Tsebelis (Latrobe City) 205                            
 Michael Walsh (Melton) 200                                   
 Steven Young (Geelong West) 200                              
 Glenn Baldwin (Bendigo) 200                                  
 Tony Jones (Bendigo) 170                                     
 Dean Stewart (Northcote) 170                                 
 Ian Smith (Carnegie Caulfield) 170                           
 Andrew Shannon (New Zealand) 170                             
 Laurie Noonan (Brunswick) 150                                
 Sean Pontelandolfo (Bendigo) 140                             
 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastapol) 120                        
 Alexander James (Brunswick) 120                              
 Jeremy Mclay (Chelsea & Peninsula) 115                       
 Tobias Lennon (Bendigo) 115                                  
 Jamie Goddard (Blackburn) 110                                
 Joel Stewart (ACT) 110                                       
 Warren Scott (NSW) 90                                        
 Steven Sansonetti (Northcote) 90                             
 Hamish Taylor (Northcote) 80                                 
 Stephen Fitzpatrick (NSW) 80                                 
 Joel Leonard (Footscray) 20                                  
 Brad Norton (Shepparton) 20                                  
 Ben Kersten (NSW) Scratch                                    
 Darren Young (Tasmania) Scratch 
Final 2000m
1 Ben Kersten (NSW) Scratch                         2.06.10
2 Warren Scott (NSW) 90                                       
3 Joel Stewart (ACT) 110                                      
4 Steven Sansonetti (Northcote) 90                            
Reuters Women's Handicap 1500m
1 Rahna Demarte (Northcote) 10                                
2 Liz Williams (New Zealand) Scratch                          
3 Tess Downing (Carnegie Caulfield) Scratch                   
4 Jessica Berry (Bendigo)                                     
Australian Abalone Exports A Grade Elimination
1 Travis Hull (Ararat)                                        
2 Joshua Gundry (Bendigo)                                     
3 Laurie Noonan (Brunswick)                                   
4 Mark Howard (Carnegie Caulfield)                            
Vodafone Keirin Series Aces Keirin Heats

Heat 1
1 Adrian Sansonetti (Northcote)                     11.47
2 Jeremy Mclay (Chelsea & Peninsula)                     
3 Todd Wilksch (Horsham)                                 
Heat 2
1 Ben Kersten (NSW)                                 11.81
2 Steven Sansonetti (Northcote)                          
3 Hamish Taylor (Northcote)                              
Heat 3
1 Joel Leonard (Footscray)                          12.08
2 Peter Fitzpatrick (NSW)                                
3 Brad Norton (Shepparton)                               
The Locker Group C Grade Elimination
1 Ed Tutty (Blackburn)                                   
2 Glenn Baldwin (Bendigo)                                
3 Brett Rollinson (WArragul)                             
4 Peter Tsebelis (Latrobe City)                          
Vodafone Keirin Series Aces Keirin Final
1 Joel Leonard (Footscray)                          10.67
2 Ben Kersten (NSW)                                           
3 Adrian Sansonetti (Northcote)                               
4 Peter Fitzpatrick (NSW)                                     
Assos B Grade Elimination
1 Michael Walsh (Melton)                                      
2 Evan Corry (Bendigo)                                        
3 Matthew Curnow (Carnegie Caulfield)                         
4 Tony Jones (Bendigo)                                        
Jefferson Ford Lance De Luca Memorial Aces Scratch Race
1 Ben Kersten (NSW)                                           
2 Todd Wilksch (Horsham)                                      
3 Darren Young (Tasmania)                                     
4 Gerard Murphy (Leongatha)