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Melbourne Cup on Wheels - NE

Melbourne, Australia, December 3, 2005


Howard and Bayley do the double

By Mal Sawford in Melbourne

2005 Melbourne Cup on Wheels champion
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) 2005 Melbourne Cup on Wheels champion is Leigh Howard of Victoria

One week after his stunning debut in senior ranks which earned him the Sydney Thousand title, Geelong schoolboy Leigh Howard (Victorian Institute of Sport) chased down reigning Olympic Sprint and Keirin Champion Ryan Bayley to snatch the prestigious Melbourne Cup on Wheels from a star studded field.

The other highlight of the carnival was a pair of Australia v Germany match races; Australian Keirin Champion Joel Leonard took on Matthias John, while in round two of the 'Match Race of the Century' reigning World Champion Rene Wolff took on Athens Gold Medallist Bayley.
Much to the delight of the vocal crowd, the Aussies came away with narrow 2-1 wins in both matches, with each race up for grabs until the last pedal stroke.

Melbourne Cup on Wheels

The first four finishers in each of the six Cup on Wheels heats qualified for the eight lap, 2000 metre final. Brendan Schultz took the first heat after rolling unchallenged off the front of the pack two laps from home for a comfortable win. Adrian Hanson (Lloyd Morgan) made good use of the form he has shown on the boards over the winter season with an impressive sprint in the second heat, while big Jeremy McLay (Nepean Cycles) shrugged off his recently broken arm to lead out and win the third heat.
The final three heats saw success for the back markers, with Howard leading all four 'backies' home in Heat 4. Bayley made it look all to easy in his heat, while Leonard had to work much harder in the final heat, closing a forty metre gap in the final lap to catch the two leaders on the line.

Howard was a raging favourite for the final, with a handy buffer over back markers Bayley, Steven Rossendell (Pratties) and Leonard. Many wrote Bayley off after three tough rides against Wolff in their Match Races, but when the gun fired, Bayley was clearly chasing the win, pulling hard turns in pursuit of Howard's group of five riders. Out front, Brett Williams and Peter Tsebelis started well and held off Dean Stewart and Schultz for two laps. Hanson elected to wait for the massive bunch of middle markers, but lost any chance of a result after pulling his foot as he tried to join the pace line.

Leigh Howard (VIS)
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Leigh Howard (VIS) takes out the final of the Grand Mercure on Swanston Melbourne Cup on Wheels

Howard's group made contact with the tail end of the middle bunch three laps in, and the field of twenty four had resolved into three groups: the four outmarkers still held a twenty metre advantage of Howard's bunch, with the back markers a similar distance behind and closing. The field came together at half distance, with Howard's VIS team mate Jason Niblett leading from Sid Patterson Grand Prix winner Andrew Shannon (Kathy Watt's Personal Training). Howard had had a dream run behind team mates Niblett and Sean Finning, and hadn't yet felt the wind, but had an equally fresh Mitchell Docker (Drapac - Porsche Development) perched on his wheel, while Bayley had to make his way through traffic to move into contention.
Shannon hit the lead at two to go, before Bayley made his big move around the outside. Howard kicked hard and briefly latched onto the Olympic Champion's wheel, but lost contact at the bell and dropped a bike length behind. It seemed Bayley would race to a clear win, but the young star dug in, and drew back on terms coming into the final bend. A tiring Bayley couldn't hold off the challenge, with Howard kicking clear to win by over a length, with time for a triumphant two armed salute.

The winner was delighted with his ride, which felt "really fantastic, it's the second week in a row I've won a big race - to come back this week and back it up with a good ride is really good". Howard's sights are firmly set on the junior world championships in Belgium. Despite his impressive sprinting, his main aims are the Individual Pursuit and Teams Pursuit. "I'm not a sprinter!" he said "also the Madison hopefully, and maybe the Points Score, we'll see how it goes through the year."
When asked what it was like to beat the Olympic Champion, Howard's initial response was simply "hard". He confessed he didn't think Bayley was beatable when he flew past, saying "when he first stepped round me, I though definitely not, but then I started reeling him in with three-quarters, half a lap to go, and then I started to come round him, and he hit the wall".

Bayley wasn't too disappointed with his second place, saying "It was actually a pretty impressive ride from a lot of people, there were a lot of people having a go which was really good to see. I was coming in with a lap and a half to go, and I saw a line, so I took it - it was a long way out, especially with all the crappy travel I've been doing lately - but I had a crack at it, that's the sprinters way! If you see it, have a go at it. If it doesn't pay off, do it a different way another day.

The better rider on the day won. He won last week, he did a really good ride back then and done an absolutely awesome ride this time round. He seems very strong and he's not scared to have a go. He's not the type of person to wait for the end, he tries to have a go whenever he can - he tried blocking me, tried pushing me up the track; which is very rare to see, especially when I'm 90 kilos and he's only probably 60 something! He's got a lot of heart and obviously he's going to make something of it if he sticks with it."

AIS riders are often criticised for not supporting major domestic carnivals. After missing most of the past twelve months due to injuries from a fall in a similar style carnival, Bayley could have been excused for staying out of trouble tonight, but was clearly racing to win every start. He went on to say "For once it was actually a very safe race. There wasn't a lot of psychos trying to pull right hand turns or trying to kill the person on the back so I was pretty happy with that!"

Match races

Ryan Bayley
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Ryan Bayley was the main drawcard for organisers of the Melbourne Cup on Wheels

After losing Round One of the 'Match Race of the Century' in Sydney, Wolff had promised to try new tactics in Melbourne, and surprised Bayley in the opening ride with a full throttle attack almost two laps from home. Wolff pulled almost ten lengths clear, but a determined chase saw Bayley close the gap steadily, but fall short by half a wheel.

Bayley rode more positively in the second heat, with both riders using the full width of the track to try to claim the front position. Once he was in front, Bayley wound up the pace from two laps to go, and held his German rival comfortably on the hip to reverse the margin from the opening ride.

The final heat saw Wolff in the lead, with a watchful Bayley giving him a little room. With the gap around three lengths a lap and half from home, Wolff saw an opportunity and kicked for home. Again, Bayley was forced to chase, finally drawing level in the home bend, and in the drag race to the line the Australian powered home to take the decider by a few inches. After the win, Bayley told the crowd he felt Wolff should hand over the Rainbow Jersey - Wolff replied "we can talk about it in April!"

Local star Joel Leonard went one up in his first ride against Matthias John, diving underneath his more fancied opponent 300 metres from home and holding on by the barest of margins. John reversed the result in the second ride, riding commandingly from the front and holding Leonard on his hip for the final lap to take a narrow win.
Leonard took the decider from the front, after realising John had backed off a little too far in their game of cat and mouse. Winding up to a five length advantage, Leonard set sail for home, and despite making up ground late, John fell short by half a wheel.
Support Events

Joel Leonard
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Joel Leonard leads the charge in the Aces Keirin final

Howard's opening ride of the night, the Aces Elimination, saw him impress the crowd with a seemingly effortless win. Always well positioned, had little trouble taking the win from team mate Richard England. The surprise of the night came from Todd Wilksch (Fitzroy Cycles). Virtually unbeatable in Aces racing over the past two seasons, Wilksch was caught badly out of position in the opening laps and was the only the seventh rider eliminated.

The finalists for the Keirin proved a promoter's dream - Olympic Champion Bayley, Australian Champion Leonard, German star John, plus in form riders Kial Stewart, Jason Niblett and Steven Rossendell. Bayley pounced on the derny at the start, with Stewart victorious in the tussle for second wheel.

When the derny swung off, Leonard surged to the front, and Bayley was swamped. As Stewart took the lead at the bell, Bayley was four wide and coming fast, but with so much extra ground to cover high up on the track could only watch as Stewart powered home by the most direct route to take the win from Niblett.

The Aces Scratch race is the traditional finale for Australian track carnivals, and the young VIS team put on an awesome show for the appreciative crowd. While most riders kept a close eye on young Howard, Richard England shot off the front two laps in and spent the next seven laps almost half a lap clear. Stewart ripped out a huge turn to put an end to England's escape, only to see reigning Junior World Pursuit Champion Michael Ford surge clear and quickly open a similar advantage.
Tasmanian star Rossendell set off in solo pursuit, and after a long chase made contact with nine laps to go. Rene Wolff chipped in with a couple of big turns to reduce the gap, before Ford cracked, leaving Rossendell to continue alone. Irish rider Paul Healion lifted the pace in the bunch, spelling the end of Rossendell's effort and the bunch reformed, with Howard looking untroubled in fourth wheel behind two team mates.

As the other contenders jostled for Howard's wheel, Sean Finning flew from the back of the bunch, and flew home for the final four laps to claim the win for the VIS squad. Todd Wilksch showed signs of a return to form, leading the bunch home for second, ahead of another regular contender in Tim Decker (Decked Out Coaching).

Belinda Goss
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image) Belinda Goss is happy to be back in Australia after winning a bronze medal at the world championships in Russia recently

Belinda Goss (TIS - Cyclingnews) took out the Scratch race with a strong sprint to hold off young VIS up and comer Peta Mullens, after a late attack from 1987 Australian Sprint Champion Michelle King (Nepean Cycles) and Nicole Holt (Le Tour Cycles) was reeled in.
Goss ran into trouble in the closing stages of the Women's Handicap, and was lucky to avoid the fall that claimed Nicole Whitburn (Quick Cycle Coaching). Back marker Rahna Demarte (Drapac - Porsche Development) showed great bike handling skills as she wove her way through photographers and officials on the track apron to miss the carnage, but the loss of momentum allowed Apryl Eppinger (VIS) to slip off the front in the final two laps with King and Monique Hanley to take the win.
Eppinger was delighted with her win, which was a confidence booster in her fight for re-selection to the state team. "It's been a while since I've won something, so it's made me feel a lot better, definitely more confident about this season".
Under 17

Last season, Peter Johnstone regularly had to play second fiddle to a dominant Leigh Howard in the junior ranks, but with Howard now mixing with the Elite riders, Johnstone became the new dominator, winning all three races with strong and confident rides. He had no trouble holding the field on his hip in the closing laps, and was able to accelerate away to take each win by a clear margin.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com

Images by CJ Farquharson/www.WomensCycling.net

Images by Richard Serong


Assos C Grade motor pace
1 Ewin Williams (Brunswick)                                              
2 Brad Connarty (Ararat)                                                 
3 Mark Nelson (Carnegie Caulfield)                                       
The Locker Group D Grade motorpace
1 Adam Webb (Ballarat-Sebastapol)                                        
2 William Pace (Latrobe City)                                            
3 Brett Williams (Bendigo)                                               
John Beasley Cycles invitational match race
Round 1
1 Joel Leonard (Australia)             11.18
2 Matthias John (Germany)                                                
Fitzroy Cycles match race of the century
Round 1
1 Rene Wolff (Germany)                 11.65
2 Ryan Bayley (Australia)                                                
Cyclesport Victoria B Grade motorpace
1 Adrian Hanson (Coburg)                                                 
2 Glenn O'shea (Bendigo)                                                 
3 James Langedyk (Geelong)                                               
Assos Aces Elimination
1 Leigh Howard (Geelong)                                                 
2 Richard England (Blackburn)                                            
3 Tim Decker (Bendigo)                                                   
4 Mitchell Docker (Brunswick)                                            
John Beasley Cycles Women's scratch race
1 Belinda Goss (Tasmania)                                                
2 Peta Mullens (Latrobe City)                                            
3 Jessica Berry (Bendigo)                                                
4 Rahna Demarte (Northcote)                                              
Drapac - Porsche Development Programme invitational U17 scratch race
1 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Peninsula)                                  
2 Simon Thorsen (Shepparton)                                             
3 Michael Downing (Carnegie Caulfield)                                   
John Beasley Cycles invitational match race
Round 2
1 Matthias John (Germany)                10.96
2 Joel Leonard (Australia)                                               
Fitzroy Cycles match race of the century
Round 2
1 Ryan Bayley (Australia)                10.98
2 Rene Wolff (Germany)                                                   
The Grand Mercure On Swanston Melbourne Cup on Wheels
Heat 1
1 Brendan Schultz (Hamilton)                                             
2 James Langedyk (Geelong)                                               
3 Andrew Stewart (Coburg)                                                
4 Peter Tsebelis (Latrobe City)                                          
Heat 2
1 Adrian Hanson (Coburg)                                                 
2 Glenn O'shea (Bendigo)                                                 
3 Anthony Rix (Bendigo)                                                  
4 Brett Williams (Bendigo)                                               
Heat 3
1 Jeremy Mclay (Chelsea & Peninsula)                                     
2 Dean Stewart (Northcote)                                               
3 Daniel Ellis (ACT)                                                     
4 Adrian Salter (Footscray)                                              
Heat 4
1 Leigh Howard (Geelong)                                                 
2 Mitchell Docker (Brunswick)                                            
3 Sean Finning (Castlemaine)                                             
4 Tim Decker (Bendigo)                                                   
Heat 5
1 Ryan Bayley (Western Australia)                                        
2 Gary Mueller (Brunswick)                                               
3 Jason Niblett (Horsham)                                                
4 Steven Rossendell (Tasmania)                                           
Heat 6
1 Steven Sansonetti (Northcote)                                          
2 Toby Lennnon (Bendigo)                                                 
3 Joel Leonnard (Footscray)                                              
4 Andrew Shannon (New Zealand)                                           
Drapac - Porsche Development Program invitational U17 scratch race
1 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Peninsula)                                  
2 Michael Downing (Carnegie Caulfield)                                   
3 Patrick Drapac (Brunswick)                                             
John Beasley Cycles Invitation Match Race
Round 3
1 Joel Leonard (Australia)            10.93
2 Matthias John (Germany)                                                
Fitzroy Cycles Match Race Of The Century
Round 3
1 Ryan Bayley (Australia)             11.17
2 Rene Wolff (Germany)                                                   
The Locker Group Women's 1500m handicap
1 Apryl Eppinger (Carnegie Caulfield)                                    
2 Michelle King (Carnegie Caulfield)                                     
3 Monique Hanley (Warragul)                                              
4 Rahna Demarte (Northcote)                                              
Melbourne Cup on Wheels Final - 2000m
1 Leigh Howard (Geelong)         2.07
2 Ryan Bayley (Western Australia)                                        
3 Mitchell Docker (Brunswick)                                            
Drapac - Porsche Development Programme invitational U17 elimination
1 Peter Johnstone (Chelsea & Peninsula)                                  
2 Michael Downing (Carnegie Caulfield)                                   
3 Luke Jones (Geelong)                                                   
Australian Abalone Exports aces keirin heats
Heat 1
1 Matthias John (Germany)                                                
2 Joel Leonard (Footscray)                                               
3 Jeremy Mclay (Chelsea & Peninsula)                                     
Heat 2
1 Kial Stewart (Act)                                                     
2 Jason Niblett (Horsham)                                                
3 Rene Wolff (Germany)                                                   
Heat 3
1 Ryan Bayley (Western Australia)                                        
2 Steven Rossendell (Tasmania)                                           
3 Daniel Ellis (Act)                                                     
Cyclists International B Grade elimination
1 Adrian Hanson (Coburg)                                                 
2 Glenn O'shea (Bendigo)                                                 
3 Luke Gooley (Shepparton)                                               
Australian Abalone Exports Aces Keirin Final
1 Kial Stewart (Act)                                                     
2 Joel Leonard (Footscray)                                               
3 Ryan Bayley (Western Australia)                                        
4 Jason Niblett (Horsham)                                                
Eva's Florist - Caulfield C Grade elimination
1 Dean Stewart (Northcote)                                               
2 Ewen Williams (Brunswick)                                              
3 Brendan Schultz (Hamilton)                                             
Cyclesport Victoria aces scratch race
1 Sean Finning (Castlemaine)                                             
2 Todd Wilksch (Horsham)                                                 
3 Tim Decker (Bendigo)                                                   
4 Mark Kelly (Isle Of Man)