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108th Jefferson Ford Austral Wheelrace - NE
Melbourne, Australia, February 4, 2006
Sixth time the charm for Taylor
By Mal Sawford
Thirty-five year old Ballarat carpenter Dean Taylor (Sovereign Hill) recorded the biggest win of his twenty-seven year cycling career, taking the prestigious Austral Wheelrace by a clear margin. The big sprinter is no stranger to elite racing, winning an Australian junior championships silver medal in the sprint in the late 80s and representing his state five times, and taking gold in the 2002 World Masters Games which were also held on the Melbourne's Vodafone Arena.
A prolific Austral finalist, (who thought his winning ride was probably his sixth final), Taylor rode off the 130 metre handicap, and held off a class field including three Scratchmen: Shane Kelly (AIS), two time winner Darren Young (TIS/cyclingnews) and Todd Wilksch (Fitzroy Cycles).
How it unfolded
Despite earning the public wrath of 2005 winner Ben Kersten for drawing all three scratchmen in the same heat, handicapper Laurie Norris once again saved the best till last, with Kelly, Young and Wilksch all starting in the final heat. Unlike 2005, however, all three 'scratchies" made it safely through.
Kelly's run to the final was by no means incident free: team mate Shane Perkins was fined by the commissaires for "unsatisfactory performance" - the youngster towed Kelly into contention in the opening laps of their eight lap heat, and then swung off and was deemed not to have made a reasonable effort to complete the distance.
In the final lap, Kelly was badly boxed in and could only manage fifth behind Wilksch, , but was elevated to the final qualifying place after Japanese rider Fuwa Masto was disqualified for improving his position on the duck boards.
All six heats followed a similar pattern: once the backmarkers made contact at around the half way mark, the pace would drop markedly as the riders jostled for the fastest wheel to follow. The remaining heat winners were Darren King (Nepean Cycles) the brother of the 1987 winner Simon King, Ben Rix, ACT pair Joel Stewart and John Forrest and Sunaga Yuta from the large Japanese contingent.
Unlike the heats, the final saw the field separate into four distinct groups in the opening lap. The outmarkers had the strength in numbers, with thirteen riders combining from Eddie Wilson's 210 metre mark back to Taylor's 130 metres. Next came six riders including Japan's Oshima Masato, Sunaga Yuta and Sekine Akito, while just ahead of the three backmarkers were Alexander James (Hillman) and Gary Mueller.
After three laps, the lead group had grown to fifteen, and the three Scratchmen had reeled in James and Mueller. Kelly ran out of steam at the half way mark, and commented later that "my short distance form is good, but I lacked a bit in the handicap, but I knew that anyway". With Kelly gone, Young kept the pace high and closed in on the tail of the big lead group.
Mark Nelson (Giramondo) set the pace at three to go, with Eddie Wilson and Forrest next in line. Queenslander Chris Wilson found a way through on the inside of the bunch to move into contention, before Wilksch finally made contact with just two laps to go. Wilksch tried unsuccessfully to thread his way through the chaos, while James flew round the outside to lead the field past the finishing line at the bell. As Ben Rix waited to launch from second wheel, Taylor jumped, and moved into the lead in the back straight. Rix was able to pass James, but Taylor had already shot three lengths clear, allowing him plenty of time to celebrate his convincing win as he entered the home straight. "A lot of guys have a hard time getting around on this track. I thought if I poke my nose out there, they've got to come round me and it paid off" was how he summed up his win. "It felt tremendous, and I was overcome. There's only one thing that really topped it and that's the birth of my daughter (Chloe, aged eighteen months)!"
Considered by the handicapper as a "rider who can't go past one thousand metres", Taylor admitted his focus had changed in recent years. "Back in my early twenties I was a bit if a kilo specialist, but now I train to win the money. There's no money in the sprints! This is the most prestigious race in Australian cycling to win."
While Taylor had plenty of his extended family and friends in the crowd cheering him on, his wife Fiona had stayed home in Ballarat looking after Chloe "who's a bit of a handful. She likes to climb stairs and run around at the moment!" Taylor swapped the winner's flowers for his sister-in-law's mobile phone during his victory lap, and quickly rang home to spread the happy news.
Bendigo's Jessica Berry (Decked Out Coaching) came out fighting in the opening motor paced race, racing to the lead at the bell ahead of Nicole Whitburn (Quick Cycle Coaching) while Commonwealth Games hopefuls Kate Cullen (Scotland) and Elisabeth Wiliams (New Zealand) tried to get on terms.
Berry's long sprint was up to the challenge, however, as she held off Cullen's late charge to salute by half a length from Cullen and Williams.
The backmarkers struggled in the six lap handicap, despite closing the gap to the early leaders, their efforts saw them unable to respond when former elite gymnast Livia Gluchowska (BSP/Cell Biology) made her move with a lap and a half to travel. Gluchowska extended her lead all the way to the line, convinced she "still had a couple of girls on my wheel!"
The diminutive sprinter was elated with her win, saying "Finally! I've had a bit of a shocking season this year, so it's good to come up with a big win, bumping the confidence up. I've only had one win this season, and really struggled with racing and fitness, and finally got my head around it."
"I got a really good push, and I was smart enough not to do a turn, sit on wheels. I went with one and a half laps to go, and it took me about half a lap to get in front of everyone. I guess I've got a bit of top end speed once I wind up, rather than my jumps and starts. Once I get going I can keep going!"
Raging favourite Peter Johnstone was on form on the opening scratch race, too fast in the dash to the line for Michael Downing and Patrick Drapac (Drapac-Porsche Development Program), but had to settle for second in the sprint derby after being well held by Shepparton youngster Trevor Griffiths.
The two winners went head to head in the motor pace, with Griffiths once again holding Johnstone on his hip as they raced through the final bend, and holding on in the straight to take his second win of the night.
Early in the program, the sprint derby final pitted two of Australia's Commonwealth Games team against the rider whose last minute attempt to qualify for M2006 had come up short: Mark French.
French (BT Bike Technologies) hit the lead a little over a lap from home, with Perkins allowing almost a bike length to open, before accelerating through the clean air to draw level with French half way along the finishing straight. Kelly surged into contention in the final metre, and admitted later he had lost sight of French, instead basing his finishing burst on that of Perkins. In the end his dash to the line was timed to perfection as all three riders hit the line virtually together, with Kelly and the crowd in no doubt that the narrow victory was his.
Minutes later, a thoroughly uninterested-looking Perkins and French were on the sidelines after the opening few laps of the elimination, while Kelly and Wilksch were amongst the six riders who fought on to survive the elimination phase. Wilksch has dominated this style of race in recent years, and was once again too good, accelerating past Young in the final twenty metres to take the win.
Kelly, for many years Australia's 'kilo king', has for the past few years reinvented himself in the hope of becoming the 'keirin king' - the race he is targeting at the Commonwealth Games and beyond. Qualifying for the final with an easy heat win, he faced tougher opposition in the final from French. When the derny swung off, Kelly latched onto the wheel of Hamish Taylor (Fitzroy Cycles) who had tried to catch the group napping with a move from the back.
French had Kelly's wheel, and forced Kelly to lead from the bell. French made ground in the final bend but wasn't able to draw alongside his rival, who clearly had a point to prove as he recorded his second win of the night.
Although beaten, French showed signs of his former brilliance, with impressive acceleration, although he wasn't able to maintain his speed long enough to upset Kelly. French wouldn't be drawn on any rivalry with his former AIS team mates, saying only "I hope to be back in the national team very, very soon."
Kelly was looking forward to showing more of his speed at this week's Australian Track Championships, where he will race the team sprint and the keirin. "The most important thing's the build up to the Comm Games. I'll train through the week then race those events." Having been questioned during the week in the Melbourne papers on rumours of imminent retirement plans, Kelly was clear: "the burning desire is Olympic gold in Beijing. Ok, the event focus had changed, but it's still there.
Kelly was more forthright in response to questions about racing against French, with his demeanour darkening noticeably when the topic was raised by an unusually large media contingent. Asked "Have you said anything to Mark French tonight?" his response was a curt, "No I haven't."
Then asked if he intended to say anything to French he a little more forthcoming "No, not really. I don't really have anything to say to him. I thought about it in the lead up to it. When we come face to face what will happen? But we haven't really been face to face yet. I've got nothing to say. I suppose there are things I would like to say, but where's it going to get me? It's not going to get me anywhere, and I said I was going to be professional about it and I think I have been, so I might just leave it at that."
The Austral carnival closed with the aces scratch race, with the finale named in honour of Lance De Luca, who was awarded posthumous life membership of the promoting body in 2005. Irish rider Paul Healion was the early aggressor, stringing the bunch out repeatedly, but a broken saddle at four laps to go ended his chance of the win.
Tim Decker (Decked Out Coaching) was another rider to regularly contribute to the lighting fast pace, and made his bid for the win at the bell, but had no answer for the withering finishing burst from Young who came through the middle of the pack to take the win by a length.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gary Newvine
Images by CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net
Eva's Caulfield Florist D Grade Motor Pace Race 1 Mark Flood (Bendigo) 2 Stuart Vaughan (Hawthorn) 3 Reece Van Beek (Geelong) 4 Adam Webb (Ballarat/Sebastapol) Assos Cycling Apparel Sprint Derby Heat 1 1 Shane Perkins (Carnegie Caulfield) 11.45 2 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) 3 Sakamoto Takashi (Japan) Heat 2 1 Shane Kelly (Stawell-Great Western) 11.02 2 Mark French (St Kilda) 3 Gary Mueller (Brunswick) Final 1 Shane Kelly (Stawell-Great Western) 11.08 2 Shane Perkins (Carnegie Caulfield) 3 Mark French (St Kilda) 4 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) Drapac - Porsche Development Program C Grade Scratch Race 1 Damion Drapac (Brunswick) 2 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastapol) 3 Ben Rix (Bendigo) 4 Dean Stewart (Northcote) Jefferson Ford B Grade Motor Pace Race 1 Brendan Schultz (Hamilton) 2 Adrian Hanson (Coburg) 3 Adrian Salter (Footsray) 4 Jarrod Moroni (Bendigo) Jefferson Ford Aces Elimination 1 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) 2 Darren Young (Tasmania) 3 Alexander James (Brunswick) 4 Aaron Salisbury (Carnegie Caulfield) First Off The Bike Radio Cycling Show E Grade Scratch Race 1 Eddie Wilson (Brunswick) 2 Mackenzie Bradley (Bendigo) 3 Cameron Sheedy (Carnegie Caulfield) 4 John Salter (Shepparton) Cyclesport Victoria M17 Scratch Race 1 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Pennsula) 2 Michael Downing (Carnegie Caulfield) 3 Patrick Drapac (Brunswick) 4 Jake King (Carnegie Caulfield) Reuters 3000 Women's Scratch Race 1 Jessica Berry (Bendigo) 2 Kate Cullen (Scotland) 3 Elisabeth Williams (New Zealand) 4 Nicole Whitburn (Warragul) Cyclesport Victoria M17 Sprint Derby 1 Trevor Griffiths (Shepparton) 2 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Pennsula) 3 Jake King (Carnegie Caulfield) 4 Simon Thorsen (Shepparton) 108th Jefferson Ford Austral Wheelrace Heat 1 1 Darren King (Carnegie Caulfield)(130) 2.10.03 2 Simon Shaw (Carnegie Caulfield)(170) 3 Ewin Williams (Brunswick)(160) 4 Mark Nelson (Carnegie Caulfield)(160) Heat 2 1 Ben Rix (Bendigo)(140) 2.13.53 2 Damion Drapac (Brunswick)(130) 3 Oshima Masasto (Japan)(110) 4 Sean Pontelandolfo (Bendigo)(115) Heat 3 1 Joel Stewart (ACT)(110) 2.08.38 2 Chris Wislon (Queensland)(180) 3 Aaron Salisbury (Carnegie Caulfield)(90) 4 Ryan Pontelandolfo (Bendigo)(190) Heat 4 1 John Forrest (ACT)(150) 2.10.39 2 Peter Tsebelis (Latrobe City)(185) 3 Eddie Wilson (Brunswick)(210) 4 Brett Perez (England)(160) Heat 5 1 Sunaga Yuta (Japan)(110) 2.13.39 2 Alexander James (Brunswick)(90) 3 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastapol)(130) 4 Gary Mueller (Brunswick)(60) Heat 6 1 Todd Wilksch (Horsham)(Scratch) 2.18.17 2 Sekine Akito (Japan)(90) 3 Darren Young (Tasmania)(Scratch) 4 Shane Kelly (Stawell-Great Western)(Scratch) Finalists Eddie Wilson (Brunswick)(210) Ryan Pontelandolfo (Bendigo)(190) Peter Tsebelis (Latrobe City)(185) Chris Wislon (Queensland)(180) Simon Shaw (Carnegie Caulfield)(170) Ewin Williams (Brunswick)(160) Mark Nelson (Carnegie Caulfield)(160) Brett Perez (England)(160) John Forrest (ACT)(150) Ben Rix (Bendigo)(140) Damion Drapac (Brunswick)(130) Darren King (Carnegie Caulfield)(130) Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastapol)(130) Sean Pontelandolfo (Bendigo)(115) Oshima Masasto (Japan)(110) Sunaga Yuta (Japan)(110) Joel Stewart (ACT)(110) Aaron Salisbury (Carnegie Caulfield)(90) Sekine Akito (Japan)(90) Alexander James (Brunswick)(90) Gary Mueller (Brunswick)(60) Todd Wilksch (Horsham)(Scratch) Darren Young (Tasmania)(Scratch) Shane Kelly (Stawell-Great Western)(Scratch) Final 2000m 1 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastapol)(130) 2.06.64 2 Ben Rix (Bendigo)(140) 3 Alexander James (Brunswick)(90) 4 Chris Wilson (Queensland)(180) John Beasley Cycles Invitational M17 Motor Pace 1 Trevor Griffiths (Shepparton) 2 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Pennsula) 3 Jamie Crass (Bendigo) 4 Michael Downing (Carnegie Caulfield) Reuters Women's Handicap 1500m 1 Livia Gluchowska (Carnegie Caulfield)(85) 2 Nicole Holt (Carnegie Caulfield)(110) 3 Nicole Whitburn (Warragul)(90) 4 Esther Pugh-Uren (Bendigo)(95) Eva's Caulfield Florist B Grade Elimination 1 Brendan Schultz (Hamilton) 2 Sungana Yuta (Japan) 3 Luke Gooley (Shepparton) 4 Adrian Hanson (Coburg) Australian Abaolone Exports Aces Keirin Heats Heat 1 1 Mark French (St Kilda) 11.21 2 Hamish Taylor (Northcote) 3 Kouji Yosho (Japan) Heat 2 1 Shane Perkins (Carnegie Caulfield) 11.85 2 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) 3 Matukawa Takahiro (Japan) Heat 3 1 Shane Kelly (Stawell-Great Western) 11.86 2 Gary Mueller (Brunswick) 3 Sekine Akito (Japan) Final 1 Shane Kelly (Stawell-Great Western) 11.26 2 Mark French (St Kilda) 3 Todd Wilksch (Horsham) 4 Shane Perkins (Carnegie Caulfield) John Beasley Cycles D Grade Points Race 1 Stuart Vaughan (Hawthorn) 7 pts 2 Mark Flood (Bendigo) 6 3 Tomas Bastian (Bendigo) 5 4 Simon Shaw (Carnegie Caulfield) 5 Cyclesport Victoria C Grade Elimination 1 Ben Rix (Bendigo) 2 Damion Drapac (Brunswick) 3 John Forrest (ACT) 4 Dean Taylor (Ballarat/Sebastapol) The Lance De Luca Memorial Aces Scratch Race 1 Darren Young (Tasmania) 2 Tim Decker (Bendigo) 3 Gary Mueller (Brunswick) 4 Alexander James (Brunswick)