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BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships

Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, January 15-18, 2004

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Day 4 - January 18: Elite Men's road race, 180 km

Produced by Anthony Tan, with reporting by Gabriella Ekström in Buninyong

Latest Live Report

Start time: 11:00 AEST
Estimated finish time: 16:00 AEST

10:55 AEST
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the final day of the 2004 BMC Software Australian Open Road Championships, the Elite Men's Road Race, held over 18 laps of the 10 kilometre Buninyong circuit. Using our incredible pool of brain-power, that's a total of 180 kilometres.

If we extend our minds even further, working on an average speed of 36 kilometres per hour, the field of 150 riders should complete the distance in five hours exactly. However, on the past two occasions where the Aussie champs have been held on the Buninyong circuit, the winner's time has been a shade under the five hour mark; in 2002, Robbie McEwen's winning time was 4.46.18 (37.74 km/h), and last year, Stuart O'Grady came home a winner in a time of 4.51.37 (37.77 km/h).

As mentioned earlier, the parcours used for the men's and women's road races is a 10 kilometre loop, starting and finishing in Warrenheip St, Buninyong (approximately 10 km from Ballarat in Victoria). The Buninyong circuit is extremely selective, beginning with a fairly tough 3 km climb each lap up Mt. Buninyong via the Midland Highway and Mt. Buninyong Road. The climb steepens near the top and this is often where key breakaway moves are made. Once they reach the top, the riders veer left along Yankee Flat Road, which undulates downhill until the left turn onto Gear Road - a short, slightly uphill section. Another left onto Hendersons Line Road/Fisken Road and the real descent begins. This is a fast, curvy run through the trees, with a sharp left hander at the bottom onto Geelong Road/Warrenheip St. There follows another kilometre or so of downhill before the riders reach the finishing straight, which is ever so slightly uphill.

All in all, the circuit favours a small group or a lone rider staying away to contest the finish.

Queensland comeback man Nathan O'Neill (Colavita-Bolla) will be aiming to go one better than he did two years ago when he finished second behind Robbie McEwen. For O'Neill, who broke his neck in a crash during the Tour de Toona in July last year, the distance of the Australian Open could present a problem as he has only been in serious training since November. But after winning the men's time trial on Friday, it seems as though anything is possible. The favourites for the race include FDJeux.com's Europe-based contingent of Bradley McGee, Baden Cooke and Matt Wilson, while Queenslanders Robbie McEwen (Lotto) and Allan Davis (Liberty-Seguros) are also expected to be strong.

11:00 AEST - 0 km / 180 km to go
Cyclingnews correspondent in Buninyong, Gabriella Ekström, says the weather is slightly overcast, but better than yesterday's conditions, which was characterised by intermittent showers. With the sun seeping through the clouds, showers are unlikely, with the air temperature lower than average for this time of year, around 19-20 degrees Celsius. A relaxed atmosphere pervades over the start/finish in Warrenheip St, with the biggest crowds so far - an estimated crowd of 3,000 people are already out on the course, with plenty more expected as the day goes on.

11:13 AEST - 5 km / 176 km to go
The riders are have just made the left-hand turn from the Midland Highway and are climbing Mt. Buninyong Road at an easy tempo. Not surprisingly, with 176 km to go, it's still all together.

11:25 AEST - Lap 2 / 12 km / 168 km to go
After completing the first lap at a reasonably brisk pace, it appears a few riders have already decided to stretch their legs on Mt. Buninyong Road on the second of 18 laps. The Buninyong circuit is favourable for a Jacky Durand-style breakaway, but it's still early days, with none of the big hitters bothering to chase.

11:43 AEST - Lap 3 / 30 km / 150 km to go
The riders' names have not been confirmed yet, but we're told that the break contains six riders, with none of the race favourites represented. Lap 1 was completed in 16'29 (36.83 km/h), Lap 2 was done in 15'25 (39.34 km/h).

11:55 AEST - Lap 4 / 35 km / 145 km to go
There are eight riders in the first break of the day: Phillip Thuaux (NSW), Robert Tighello (Vic), Russell Van Hout (SA), Stephen Cunningham (SA), Troy Glennan (NSW), Peter Pape (Vic), Klayten Smith (NSW), David Tanner (NSW). South Australia's Russell Van Hout is an excellent climber who rides for Colombia-Selle Italia, and Klayten Smith is a former club national road champion, having the title in Mooloolaba on Queensland's Sunshine Coast in 2002.

12:03 AEST - Lap 5 / 42 km / 138 km to go
The octet's lead has grown from 1'44 at the 30km mark to 2.49 at the 42km point - it's obvious the peloton isn't too concerned for now. Two Under 23 riders from Victoria, Peter Ladd (Vic) and Dylan Newell (Vic), are attempting trying to bridge across to the break of eight, who are now on the fifth of 18 laps. The crowd has also swelled to more than double its size at the start at 11am this morning.

12:18 AEST - Lap 6 / 55 km / 125 km to go
The lead has ballooned out to over four minutes, with octet's Peter Ladd (Vic) and Dylan Newell (Vic) still caught in between. Given the main bunch is showing about as much interest in the break as Rugby World Cup qualifier between Western Samoa and Hong Kong, it's unlikely we're going to see a concerted chase for a while yet.

12:48 AEST - Lap 7 / 67 km / 110 km to go
We've just had news that on Lap 6, a move containing three FDJeux.com/NSWIS riders went off the front of the main bunch. In that group were: Rodney McGee (NSW), Richard Moffatt (NSW), Matt Wilson (Vic), Ben Brooks (NSW) and James Meadley (ACT). The sextet soon caught the two riders sandwiched in between the break of eight, Peter Ladd (Vic) and Dylan Newell (Vic), with Ladd unable to follow the pace set by the FDJeux.com/NSWIS team, who are riding for their fearless leader, Bradley McGee.

12:54 AEST - Lap 7 / 69 km / 109 km to go
The second group being driven by FDJeux.com/NSWIS are 2'35 behind the first group of eight, with the peloton at 5'20.

Just to recap: the first break of eight contains Phillip Thuaux (NSW), Robert Tighello (Vic), Russell Van Hout (SA), Stephen Cunningham (SA), Troy Glennan (NSW), Peter Pape (Vic), Klayten Smith (NSW), David Tanner (NSW); a second group of seven is comprised of Rodney McGee (NSW), Richard Moffatt (NSW), Matt Wilson (Vic), Ben Brooks (NSW), James Meadley (ACT) and Dylan Newell (Vic).

13:03 AEST - Lap 8 / 75 km / 105 km to go
David Betts (Qld), Tony Mann (NSW), Trent Wilson (NSW) have escaped from the main bunch; the lead group of eight now enjoy an six minute lead to the peloton. Time to start chasing. It looks like rider #47, Paul Crake from the ACT, is also in the second group.

13:13 AEST - Lap 9 / 80 km / 100 km to go
With just over 10 laps to go, the lead group of eight riders come through the start/finish line in Warrenheip St, still with a 5 minute-plus buffer to the peloton. David McKenzie (Vic) is in the second group of riders, with Richard Moffatt (NSW), Matt Wilson (Vic), Ben Brooks (NSW), Robert Mclachlan (NSW) and Paul Crake (ACT) also in there.

13:24 AEST - Lap 9 / 86 km / 94 km to go
The same three riders - David Betts (Qld), Tony Mann (NSW), Trent Wilson (NSW) - are dangling in front of the peloton, who are climbing the Buninyong road climb for the ninth time. The unforgiving parcours is beginning to take its toll on the main bunch, with the field splitting up on the steeper sections.

13:30 AEST - Lap 9 / 90 km / 90 km to go
At the top of the Buninyong climb, five riders broke away containing the most of the race favourites. In that group were: Robbie McEwen (Qld), Allan Davis (Qld), Bradley McGee (NSW), Baden Cooke (Vic) and newly-crowned Aussie TT champ Nathan O'Neill (Qld). They'll have to work hard to catch the three groups up the road, but there's no denying the horsepower in this select group of five.

13:50 AEST - Lap 10 / 104 km / 76 km to go
The lead group of eight are still out in front, 1'18 in front of the second group of six and 3'48 in front of a severely depleted peloton, comprising no more than 30 riders. It appears the third group containing Betts, Mann and Cyclingnews diarist Trent Wilson and the fourth group with the five big-hitters have been caught by the peloton, with three distinct groups out on the road.

14:11 AEST - Lap 12 / 115 km / 65 km to go
It looks like the second group of six riders is falling apart after their efforts to reel in the lead group of eight have proved in vain. On the twelfth ascension of the Buninyong climb, Matt Wilson (Vic), Robert McLachlan (NSW) and another rider were dropped from the second group, with the peloton was not far behind, now down to around 25 riders.

14:19 AEST - Lap 12 / 118 km / 62 km to go
The somewhat depleted second group are now 26 seconds behind the lead group of eight riders, who have a three minute buffer to the main field containing all the race favourites. It's going to be a close one - it'll all depend on the energy reserves of front group of eight, who have been away since Lap 2.

14:26 AEST - Lap 13 / 126 km / 54 km to go
The three riders have now caught the lead group of eight riders. In that group are: Phillip Thuaux (NSW), Robert Tighello (Vic), Russell Van Hout (SA), Stephen Cunningham (SA), Troy Glennan (NSW), Peter Pape (Vic), Klayten Smith (NSW), David Tanner (NSW), Matt Wilson (Vic) and Ben Brooks (NSW), with another rider yet to be confirmed.

14:30 AEST - Lap 14 / 130 km / 50 km to go
New South Welshman Phillip Thuaux has broken away from the front group! The talented rider from the Central Coast has a 16 second lead with 50 kilometres remaining.

14:43 AEST - Lap 15 / 146 km / 34 km to go
Thuaux (prounounced talks) is still out on his own, albeit by a slender margin. There are two chasing groups of five riders each close behind him, with the peloton another two minutes behind, with no more than a dozen riders left in what was the main group. The first group of five riders are: Matt Wilson (Vic), Russell Van Hout (SA), Klayten Smith (NSW), Robert Tighello (Vic) and Paul Crake (ACT); the second group of five are: Troy Glennan (NSW), Peter Pape (Vic), David Tanner (NSW), Stephen Cunningham (SA) and Baden Cooke (Vic).

14:55 AEST - Lap 16 / 152 km / 28 km to go
We've just had confirmation that the Aussie time trial champ, Nathan O'Neill (QLD) was dropped big time on the climb on the previous lap, and Pocket Rocket Robbie McEwen, 2002 Aussie road champion, was also doing it tough, but may have got back on the descent. A little over two laps to go now; don't go away for too long...

14:58 AEST - Lap 16 / 156 km / 24 km to go
Russell Van Hout (SA) attacks, with the front group reacting immediately, Matty Wilson from Victoria driving the chase group. U23 Australian road champion, Simon Gerrans (Vic), leaps out of the peloton. It's all happening in Buninyong.

15:05 AEST - Lap 17 / 161 km / 19 km to go
On the penultimate lap, what's left of the main peloton pass through the start/finish for the second last time (unless the riders want to do a few warm-down laps, of course). In that group are: Allan Davis (Qld), Patrick Jonker (SA), Bradley McGee (NSW), Baden Cooke (Vic), Gene Bates (SA), David McPartland (Vic), Rory Sutherland (ACT), David McKenzie (Vic) and Caleb Manion (Tas), among a few others. It looks like they're all working well together; after all, there's an Aussie jersey up for grabs today!

15:20 AEST - Lap 18 / 170 km / 10 km to go
It's the final lap! Russell Van Hout (SA) is now the leader on the road - Phillip Thuaux (NSW) must have blown a gasket - Van Hout has 50 seconds on the front group, who have splintered into ones and twos. Matt Wilson (Vic) and Robert McLachlan (NSW) are chasing hard behind, just ahead of Klayten Smith (NSW), Robert Tighello (Vic), Paul Crake (ACT). Then it's Simon Gerrans still trying to bridge the gap to this group of five, and then it's the peloton at 2'30.

15:24 AEST - Lap 18 / 172 km / 8 km to go
If the previous time gap was correct, we could very well see a new Aussie road champion in Russell Van Hout (SA), who is certainly holding his own as climbs the Midland Highway before he turns left into Mt. Buninyong Road for the final time. The peloton is reportedly down to six riders: Baden Cooke (Vic), David McKenzie (Vic), David McPartland (Vic), Allan Davis (Qld), Bradley McGee (NSW) and U23 TT champion Mark Jamieson (Tas).

15:30 AEST - Lap 18 / 175 km / 5 km to go
Can't trust these time checks - Matt Wilson (Vic) and Robert McLachlan (NSW) have gone straight past Russell Van Hout (SA). Ladies and gentlemen, Matty Wilson is on fire!

15:41 AEST - Lap 18 / 176 km / 4 km to go
Okey dokey, here's the story: Matt Wilson (Vic) attacked his breakaway companion Robert McLachlan (NSW) after the top of the Buninyong climb and has a 700 metre lead with less than four kilometres remaining. It looks like Wilson's got it - Cyclingnews' Gabriella Ekström says: "He looks untouchable!"

15:46 AEST - Lap 18 / 180 km / 0 km to go
Victoria's Matty Wilson crosses the line solo, arms aloft. In the spirit of Lance Armstrong, the cancer survivor has conquered his demons to become the 2004 Australian Road Champion. Well done, Matt.


1 Matt Wilson (Vic) FDJeux.com                    4.47.43
2 Robert McLachlan (NSW)                             1.10
3 David McKenzie (Vic) Navigators                    3.13
4 Simon Gerrans (Vic)                                3.14
5 Paul Crake (ACT)                                   3.32
6 Robert Tighello (Vic)                              3.44
7 Baden Cooke (Vic) FDJeux.com
8 Russell Van Hout (SA) Colombia-Selle Italia        3.45
9 Klayten Smith (NSW)                                5.57
10 Allan Davis (Qld) Liberty-Seguros                 7.53
U23 Australian championship
1 Rory Sutherland (ACT) Rabobank

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