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110th Austral Wheelrace - IM

Melbourne, Australia, March 15, 2008

2007 Results    Results     History

Rathbone victorious

But nearly throws it all away with premature celebration

By Mal Sawford in Melbourne

Jackson-Leigh Rathbone gets airborne and wins later
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

20 year-old New South Wales rider Jackson-Leigh Rathbone will lug the impressive Austral trophy back to the Blue Mountains, but came within an inch of having a much bigger burden to weigh down his trip home. Rathbone rode from the 40 metre mark and was the rider of the carnival, and showed impressive finishing bursts to take both the opening Aces scratch race ahead of Olympic gold medalist Brett Aitken, and to finish a comfortable second in his heat behind a solo breakaway.

A lap from home in the wheelrace final, Rathbone looked unbeatable when he unleashed his kick for home, and was two lengths clear when he swung into the home straight. He thrust his right arm skyward half way down the straight to celebrate his win, only to see an orange blur fly past at the top of the track as he hit the line.

That orange blur was Malaysian sprinter Azizul Awang, the bookie's favourite, who had launched himself clear of the chasing bunch in the back straight to come from nowhere to catch Rathbone at the line. Awang, and the near capacity crowd, thought his desperate lunge for the line had been enough to snatch the win, and the Malaysian celebrated briefly before the photo finish revealed Rathbone had hung on by the barest of margins.

While the judges deliberated, a sheepish Rathbone told the race caller simply, "I feel very silly."

How it unfolded

24 riders qualified for the final, with heat wins to Casey Munro (140 metres), Craig Robertson (175 metres), Josiah Ng (70 metres), Stuart Grimsey (160 metres), one of the event promoters in Clint McDonell (150 metres) and former Giro d'Italia rider Tom Leaper (155 metres).

Brett Aitken faced a tough challenge
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Aitken, the lone scratchman in the field, faced a tough chase with Scott Law (25 metres), but the pair was unable to make up the deficit to the long line of riders that formed in the opening two laps. "In hindsight, if he had waited we could have worked together and at least one of us would have gotten up, but in the end we both missed out."

With the back markers out of contention, Jay Callaghan (130 metres) opened the sprint two laps from home, before Casey Munro took up the front running. Rathbone sat perfectly positioned in fourth wheel before he unleashed his sprint in the final 200 metres and shot away to what should have been a clear win.

Rathbone's biggest win previously was the points race title at the 2007 Australian track championships. Leading into the 2008 championships he took a six week break, sensing he was overdone, and surprised himself with unexpected good form that saw him collect silver meals in the kilo, scratch race and team's pursuit. He built further on that form with solid rides in the Madisons at the Australian Madison Championship and at Bendigo, made no secret of the fact he had expected to do well on the boards of Vodafone Arena.

After the presentation ceremony, he was frank is his assessment of his overconfidence. "I was feeling very confident. I knew I was on the right gear, it was the right temperature. I just let it get away a bit in my head I guess." Watching Awang celebrate, and asked what went through his mind, Rathbone revealed that "I had an essay full of thoughts in my head after the finish line. I wanted to find the deepest hole I could, pretty much."

"I took it as a lesson learned, but fortunately someone was looking after me upstairs and I came away number one. I was just too cocky basically. A very big lesson, and to learn it here and not pay any penalty, I almost felt guilty."

"I wouldn't say it's my nature to be cocky. It was quite devastating to think he had got over [me]. It's not a one man race, that's the other thing. You've got other people sacrificing their own chances and towing you around, putting a lot of faith and effort in, and losing would have scarred then as well."

Other racing

Azizul Awang had the outfit of the evening
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

In a virtual repeat of her performance at the Australian Madison Championships carnival, Tess Downing (Jayco VIS) claimed two of the three women's races, beaten only in the keirin by Malaysian national and sometime training partner Fatehah Mustapa.

Downing won both the scratch and points races with attacks at half distance, and used her pursuiting strength to hold off the chasers. She was chased home by Carnegie Caulfield club mates Lisa Friend (Drapac Porsche) and Nicole Whitburn (HIT Racing) in the scratch race, while in the points race young Malaysian sprinter Fatehah Mustapa collected enough sprint points to finish second ahead of the both Friend and Whitburn. "I just thought I'd try something different," Downing said. "Often the girl's races finish in a bunch sprint and the opportunity [to attack] was there. I just want to learn to ride hard and tough and that was my goal tonight."

In the keirin, Downing followed the derney, but had Mustapa right behind, and the local girl's best efforts over the final two laps just served as the perfect lead out for the Malaysian. "I've been training with Fatehah quite a bit. Sometimes I can match her, but she comes off the wheel really well. She's only 18 and a track sprinter and definitely one to watch out for in the future."

The Malaysian men dominated the sprint events, with former world cup keirin champion Josiah Ng taking his pet event with a well timed finishing burst to overhaul Awang, who had attacked at two to go. Awang, wearing a very distinctive retro full face helmet (somewhat confusing for spectators given its custom paint job reflecting previous ownership by Josiah Ng!), finished his night with a good win in the sprint derby.

Liz Georgouras during the keirin
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Awang survived a clash with leading local sprinter Joel Leonard in the heat which led to Leonard's disqualification, but was a commanding winner in the final ahead of team-mate Edrus Yunus and Eddie Wilson (Ventou).

The carnival also featured the final rounds of the 'Future Stars' series, an invitational series for the leading under 18 riders in Australia, with the first two rounds held during Revolution 1 and 2. Trevor Griffiths held a commanding lead at the start of the night, and won three from three to run out a clear and deserving winner. For the girls, Carly McCoombe and Shannon McCurley started the night equal on points, but like Griffiths, McCoombe was simply too good on the night, winning all three races to take the series in relative comfort.

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net

Images by CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net

Images by CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net


The Swanston Hotel Scratch Race Elite Men
1 Jackson -Leigh Rathbone                                  
2 Brett Aitken                                             
3 Peter Johnstone                                          
4 Mitch Docker                                             
2Xu Future Stars Double Kilo Dash M18
1 Trevor Griffiths                                         
2 Ben Sanders                                              
3 Sasaki Ryu                                               
4 Maddison Hammond                                         
5 Kondo Tatsunori                                          
6 Angus Tobin                                              
2Xu Future Stars Double Kilo Dash W18
1 Carly Mccoombe                                           
2 Amy Cure                                                 
3 Shannon Mccurley                                         
4 Marquessa Jelbart                                        
5 Natasha Landedyk                                         
6 Stephanie Hansen                                         
 Maelle Howarth                                            
 Laine Hammond                                             
Malvern Star Invitational Keirin Final
1 Joshiah Ng Mal                                           
2 Azizul Awang                                             
3 Steven Sanonetti                                         
4 Joel Leonard                                             
The Swanston Hotel Invitational Austral Warm Up Event
1 Kyle Marwood                                             
2 Garry Mueller                                            
3 Andrew Shannon                                           
Malvern Star Sprint Heats Elite Men
1 Risel Tizing                                             
2 Eddie Wilson                                             
3 Byron Davis
Heat 2
1 Azizul Awang                                             
2 Edrus Yunus                                              
3 Steven Sansonetti                                        
4 Joel Leonard                                             
Sen Elite Women Scratch Race Elite Women
1 Tess Downing                                             
2 Lisa Friend                                              
3 Nicole Whiteburn                                         
2Xu Future Stars Motor Pace M18
1 Trevor Griffiths                                       20 pts
2 Ben Sanders                                            16
3 Kondo Tatsunori                                        14
4 Toby Dite                                              12
 Sam Brett                                               10
 Sasaki Ryu                                               8
 Aaron Cooper                                             6
 Aaron Box                                                5
2Xu Future Stars Motor Pace W18
1 Amy Cure                                                 
2 Carly Mccoombe                                           
3 Shannon Mccurly                                          
4 Samantha Verlin                                          
5 Melzy Feltham                                            
6 Stephanie Hansen                                         
7 Kendell Hodges                                           
Cyclecover 110Th Austral Wheelrace Heat Elite Men
Heat 1
1 Casey Munro                                              
2 Ashley Braszell                                          
3 Toby Glennon                                             
4 Scott Keating                                            
Heat 2
1 Craig Robertson                                          
2 Ewin Williams                                            
3 Darren Rogers                                            
4 Dean Heathcote                                           
Heat 3
1 Josiah Ng                                                
2 Stuart Vaughan                                           
3 Eddie Wilson                                             
4 Damien Semmler                                           
Heat 4
1 Stuart Grimsey                                           
2 David Pell                                               
3 Gary Mueller                                             
4 Peter Johnstone                                          
Heat 5
1 Clint Mcdonell                                           
2 Jackson-Leigh Rathbone                                   
3 Jay Callaghan                                            
4 Chris Simonelli                                          
Heat 6
1 Tom Leaper                                               
2 Scott Law                                                
3 Azizul Awang                                             
4 Brett Aitken                                             
Brunetti's Italian Pursuit Aust vs. Japan
1 Japan                                                2.13
2 Australia                                            2.15
Sen Points Race Elite Women
1 Tess Downing                                             
2 Fatehah Mustapa                                          
3 Lisa Friend                                              
4 Nicole Whiteburn                                         
The Cyclecover 110Th Austral Wheelrace Final Elite Men
1 Jackson-Leigh Rathbone                                   
2 Azizul Awang                                             
3 Stuart Grimsey                                           
2Xu Future Stars Elimination M18
1 Trevor Griffiths                                         
2 Sasaki Ryu                                               
3 Kondo Tatsunori                                          
4 Angus Tobin                                              
 Sam Brett                                                 
 Chris Jehu                                                
 Gavin Sittampalam                                         
 Imai Kazuma                                               
2Xu Future Stars Elimination W18
1 Carly Mccoombe                                           
2 Amy Cure                                                 
3 Shannon Mccurly                                          
4 Kendelle Hodges                                          
 Samantha Verlin                                           
 Chloe Mcintosh                                            
 Natasha Langedyk                                          
 Netesha Pearse                                            
Sen Keirin Final Women Elite Women
1 Fatehah Mustapa                                          
2 Tess Downing                                             
3 Liz Georgouras                                           
4 Olivia Gluchowska                                        
Malvern Star Sprint Final Elite Men
1 Azizul Awang                                             
2 Edrus Yunus                                              
3 Eddie Wilson                                             
4 Steven Sansonetti                                        
The Swanston Hotel Elite Men Motor Pace Elite Men
1 James Langedyk                                           
2 Mitch Docker                                             
3 Peter Johnstone                                          
4 Jackson - Leigh Rathdone                                 
5 Brett Aitken                                             
Bicycle Superstore Revolution Sprintmen
1 Ryan Bayley                                              
2 Jason Niblett                                            
Bicycle Superstore Revolution Sprint Final Elite Men
1 Graeme Brown                                           20 pts
2 Cameron Meyer                                          11
3 Allan Davis                                            10
4 Zach Dempster                                           8
5 Glenn O'shea                                            6
6 Leigh Howard                                            4
7 Hilton Clarke                                           2
8 Zach Bell                                               2
9 Darren Young                                            2