By Karen Forman
OLYMPIC gold medallist Brett Aitken added another string to his not inconsiderable bow with a win in the feature event of the Sid Patterson Grand Prix at Melbourne's Vodafone Arena on Saturday night.
Aitken beat Mark Renshaw and last year's winner Tommy Nankervis in a dazzling sprint which began when he started in the scratch position and ended only when he crossed the finish line six laps later.
Given that Aitken has decided to take a year out to develop his new personal training business in Adelaide, the win was extra special. He told cyclingnews.com that he will not be contesting next week's nationals, nor making a bid for the World Cup or Commonwealth Games.
"It was great to win a race named for the great Sid Patterson, renowned as one of the greatest track riders of all time," he said after being handed what CycleSPort Victoria president Joe Ciavola described as "the greatest and biggest trophy I have ever seen in cycling" on the podium.
"I wasn't feeling that great . . . I have done very little training since the Australian Madison Championships (March 10) . . . so it was great to do so well.
"I am taking this year off to develop my business. It isn't easy making a living as a cyclist in Australia, so I want to get it set up first and then come back to cycling later."
Aitken will not, however, be giving the game completely away. He intends to continue to ride track and road at club level for the time being.
"I will look at starting seriously again this time next season," he said.
"I have only done half my usual training since the Olympics and it is hard to compete at this level with that kind of fitness.
Aitken's gold medal winning madison partner Scott McGrory will be disappointed. He told cyclingnews.com at the Bendigo madison last month that he hoped to get Aitken interested again in time for the Commonwealth Games. The pair raced the six days together in Europe last season with great success.
However, Aitken says he is mindful there is life after cycling, is said not to enjoy living overseas, and has made his own decision.
The Sid Patterson night, the final event of the five-event Cyclists International 2001-2002 international track racing season, attracted around 100 riders including 50 seniors and 15 women. A novel start to the night was a dance display by Funk Addiction in association with the Essendon Academy of Ballet.
The 21-event program included Australia's first ever Champion of Champions wheel race event designed to determine the best handicap rider in the country. Winners and placegetters from all major handicap races during the 2001-2002 season were given automatic entry into the event.
First three events on the program were used as qualifers for the Sid Patterson wheel race and there was no slow start to this night of racing..
The 20-lap Forges Stores Scratch Race contested by 19 riders was quick. At the bell lap Damien Ladd (Bendigo) led out with Glen Bush of Shepparton on his wheel. A big bunch sprint to the line had Carnegie rider Ian Smith the winner in 7.03.59, . Glen Bush (Shepparton), Damien Ladd of Bendigo with additional qualifers Doug Garley (Carnegie), Russell Poole (Blackburn) and Mark Bourjau (St Kilda).
The second qualifying event, the 20 lap Dimmey's Stores Scratch Race, boasted 24 riders. The field rode together, swapping turns at a steady pace for the entire race, winding up steadily as the bell started to chime.
With two to go Brad Edmunds was setting the pace and attacking off the front, . Then Jonny Clarke took the lead, Curtis was in second position, around the outside. Close. The final call went to Tommy Nankervis of Carnegie with clubmate Clarke second,
Third qualifying event the McLennan-Morley-Gubbin Aces Elimination was an all-star affair, contested by 21 riders and raced, as you would expect from such a lineup, at a very fast pace. This event included all the names of the season - Brett Aitken, Shane Kelly, Mark Renshaw, Darren Young, Mark French, Nicholas Sanderson, Sean Finning.
The last four riders were Joel Leonard, Aitken, Young and then the pace hotted up. Aitken took off at the bell, Young was eliminated, neck and neck close but Brett Aitken won in 5.24.706. Joel Leonard second, Darren Young third, Simon Barnett fourth, with Renshaw and Sanderson taking the other two qualifying positions.
A strong field of 15 women contested the six lap Bill Clifton Carpet Services women and w/19 Handicap, won by Kylie Howlett from Ararat off 155 with Sally Robbins from Broadford Seymour Cycling Club second and Nicole Holt of Blackburn Cycling Club third. Howlett rode strongly through the race, without much help.
Photos by John Stasytis/Hawthorn Photographics
Siebel Systems Sid Patterson Grand Prix 6 laps 1. Brett Aitken (South Australia) 2. Mark Renshaw 3. Tommy Nankervis Forges Stores Scratch Race 20 laps First six qualify for Sid Patterson Wheel Race 1. Ian Smith (Carnegie) 7.03.59 2. Glen Bush (Shepparton) 3. Damien Ladd (Bendigo) 4. Doug Garley (Carnegie) 5. Russell Poole (Blackburn) 6. Mark Bourjau (St Kilda) Dimmey's Stores Scratch Race 20 laps First six qualify for Sid Patterson Wheel Race 1. Tommy Nankervis (Carnegie) 6.24.275 2. Jonny Clarke (Carnegie) 3. Joel Stewart (ACT) 4. Ryan Kelly (Carnegie) 5. Richard England (St Kilda) 6. Ewin Williams (Brunswick) McLennan-Morley-Gubbin Aces elimination First six qualify for Sid Patterson Wheel Race 1. Brett Aitken (South Australia) 5.24.706 2. Joel Leonard (Footscray) 3. Darren Young (Tasmania) 4. Simon Barnett (Horsham) 5. Mark Renshaw (NSW) 6. Nicholas Sanderson (Ararat) Bill Clifton Carpet Service Women/W19 Handicap 6 laps 1. Kylie Howlett (Ararat) 1.46.557 2. Sally Robins (Broadford Seymour) 3. Nicole Holt (Blackburn) 4. Vanessa Crawford (Hamilton) Malvern Star Invitational M17 Elimination 1. Shane Perkins (Carnegie) 2.45.838 2. Patrick Shaw (Ballarat-Sebastopol) 3. Michael Ford (Carnegie) 4. Mario Giramondo (Carnegie)