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Jayco Bay Classic - NE
Australia, January 5-9, 2005
Round 1 - January 5: Williamstown
McEwen and Armstrong take opening honours
By Rod Morris in Williamstown
If Robbie McEwen had to prove to Australian cycling fans why he is one of the best in the world, then surely he did so in the opening round of the 2005 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic today. A star of the Tour de France in recent years, McEwen won the Williamstown round of the five day criterium series, to set up a record sixth win in his signature event.
McEwen arrived in Victoria from his home state of Queensland with little more than an hour to spare before racing to the venue, trading his civilian clothes for his racing lycra and then putting on a show for all concerned. Fellow Queenslander Jaaron Poad (Colbago/Caravello), formerly from New Zealand, set the scene early by hitting out on the wind-swept course, dragging Tasmanian Bernard Sulzberger (Skilled TIS) and South Australian Mathew Rex (Bicycle Superstore/HLP) along with him.
That trio put plenty of time into their break over the peloton, forcing many lapped riders off the course. But dogged Victorian rider Hilton Clarke (McKnight's Retravision/Fisher & Paykel) and McEwen (Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team) were able to escape the danger and worked hard to bridge the gap, although both would readily admit it wasn't easy.
"Chasing guys like Jaaron Poad is excruciating," McEwen said. "That was one tough race, particularly for so early in the season."
With McEwen and Clarke finally over the gap to join Poad, Sulzberger and Rex, the margin to the peloton grew steadily and eventually only 31 of the original 65 starters finished the race, highlighting the punishment many went through and underlining McEwen's statement.
The Jayco Bay Classic series is now in its 16th year and McEwen, who has won five times since 1997 is determined to make it six. "I have come a long way for this race and although my form isn't anything special at this time of the season, I feel as though I've got some sprinting in my legs for the rest of the week," he said.
At the bell lap, Sulzberger crossed the line first, but he knew the vultures were waiting to strike, it was just a matter of which one. To the Tasmanian's credit, he remained composed and bided his time, opting to go with McEwen and try and outsprint him... but who in the world can do that? Even Poad, who admits his form is probably at the peak of his career, labelled McEwen as "The fastest man on earth!"
"I couldn't have done much more than what I did," Poad said. "I hit out early trying to bust the bunch up...that worked. I was in good position over the last five laps, I only had a few riders around me to watch...that worked. Sprinting to the finish line had one small problem...Robbie McEwen."
The leading five riders had a comfortable 40 second buffer before the bunch came limping home for the remainder of the top 10 positions. Former West Australian - now Queensland based - Henk Vogels (Bicycle Superstore/HLP) led the chasers home, followed by Canberra's Rory Sutherland (Victorian State Home Loans), big Tasmanian Karl Menzies (Skilled TIS), and Victorian pair Simon Clarke (Carnegie Caulfield/Billa Bridge) and Robert Crowe (Bicycle Superstore/HLP).
Women: Armstrong gets up
The Elite Women's race saw a superhuman effort from NSW rider Sky-Lee Armstrong (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston). Hindered and delayed by rain, the women's event had Armstrong hit out very early and ride a lonely race for 16 laps before teammate Oenone Wood and fellow Sydney rider, Kate Nichols (NSWIS) bridged the gap at lap 22. By then the margin had grown to an imposing 40 seconds with the peloton appearing to ride with heavy legs.
On the final lap, Armstrong made a bold move, she decided to hit Wood and Nichols again and the latter pair were caught surprised and had to be content with the minor placings.
In the Men's Support race, Sydney's Mitchell Pearson, a member of the Eurobodalla Cycling Club won from Tasmanian track scratchman Stephen Rossendell and Victorian country rider Alistair Farley.
The Bay Criterium series will continue on Thursday with Round 2 at Portarlington.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
Elite Men 1 Robbie McEwen (Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team) 12 pts 2 Jaaron Poad (Colnago/Caravello) 10 3 Bernard Sulzberger (Skilled Tasmanian IS) 8 4 Hilton Clarke (McKnight Retravision/Fisher & Paykel) 7 5 Mathew Rex (Bicycle Superstore/HLP) 6 6 Henk Vogels (Bicycle Superstore/HLP) 5 7 Rory Sutherland (Victorian State Home Loans) 4 8 Karl Menzies (Skilled Tasmanian IS) 3 9 Simon Clarke (Carnegie Caulfield/Billa Bridge) 2 10 Robbie Crowe (Bicycle Superstore/HLP) 1 Elite Women 1 Sky-Lee Armstong (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 12 pts 2 Oenone Wood (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 10 3 Kate Nichols (NSW IS) 8 4 Emma James (Mercure Geelong) 7 5 Rochelle Gilmore (NSW IS) 6 6 Jenny MacPherson (Jayco VIS) 5 7 Haley Rutherford (Mercure Geelong) 4 8 Bridget Evans (Mercure Geelong) 3 9 Therese Cliff-Ryan (ACT) 2 10 Belinda Goss (Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team) 1 Support Men 1 Mitchell Pearson (NSW) 12 pts 2 Stephen Rossendell (Tas) 10 3 Alistair Farley (Vic) 8 4 Ben Isaksen (NSW) 7 5 Wesley Sulzberger (Tas) 6 6 Cameron Streistermanis (Vic) 5 7 Lincoln Brown (Vic) 4 8 Scott Peoples (Vic) 3 9 Fabio Calabria (ACT) 2 10 Shaun Lewis (NSW) 1 Teams Championship Elite Men 1 Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team 12 pts 2 Bicycle Superstore/HLP 12 3 Skilled Tasmanian IS 11 4 Colnago/Caravello 10 5 McKnight Retravision/Fisher & Paykel 7 6 Victorian State Home Loans 4 7 Carnegie Caulfield/Billa Bridge 2 Elite Women 1 Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston 22 pts 2 NSW IS 14 3 Mercure Geelong 14 4 Jayco VIS 5 5 ACT 2 6 Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team 1 Sprint Championship Elite Men 1 Mathew Rex (Bicycle Superstore/HLP) 5 pts 2 Jaaron Poad (Colnago/Caravello) 4 3 William Walker (Jayco VIS) 3 4 Bernard Sulzberger (Skilled Tasmanian IS) 2 5 Ben Johnson (Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team) 2 6 Robbie McEwen (Drapac-Porsche Cycling Team) 1 7 David McKenzie (Bicycle Superstore/HLP) 1 Elite Women 1 Sky-Lee Armstong (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 6 pts 2 Oenone Wood (Mercure Grand Hotel on Swanston) 2 3 Kate Nichols (NSW IS) 2 4 Katie Brown (NSW IS) 2