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I raced the National Criterium Championships last night. It was a nice change from the Bay Crits as there was lots of room to move through the relatively small field of about 50. No ProTour or Pro Continental riders were competing except for Robbie McEwen and there was a noticable difference in the overall speed of the race.
To make a short story even shorter, a strong group of 8 got away at the half way point and stayed away (McEwen missed the break). FlyV and Porsche-Drapac shut the chase down and the break-away lapped the field in the final two laps. David Pell (Drapac) had a dig with 3 laps to go, gaining a 100m gap which looked promising but was brought back on the last lap. Aaron Kemps (FlyV) won the bunch kick with Dean Windsor (Rapha), and William Clarke (Praties) rounding out 2nd and 3rd respectively.
I’m pleased to see Kemps and FlyV winning the Australian National Criterium jersey. I don’t think it could have worked out much better. Why does this make a difference to me? This makes a difference because FlyV will be based in the US for most of the season and a good portion of their races will be US style criteriums where Kemps will be able to show off the jersey. If McEwen had won the jersey it may have been rarely seen because the majority of his races are road events (where he cannot wear the jersey. Does anyone know if the crit champ jersey can be worn in kermesses?). I believe it’s important for Australian cycling to have a national champion who will be seen wearing the jersey and “waving the flag” in the big races. Kemps will be able to do this in the US where crit style racing is extremely popular.
This is in contrast to the National Road Championship winner of last year Peter McDonald of Porsche-Drapac. Don’t get me wrong – I was jumping out of my skin with excitement watching McDonald roll Rogers and Hansen (Columbia) in a 2-on-1 sprint. MacDonald had a sensational ride which fully earned him the Aussie National Champ jersey.
The only problem I had with McDonald winning the green and gold jersey is that we never saw it. He did a few relatively small races with the jersey and did well, but that was it. I realize that MacDonald didn’t have aspirations to take his racing to another level nor did his program allow him to ride in a Grand Tour, but it sure would have been nice to have someone wear the prestigious green and gold colors on the world stage.
I loved seeing Matty Lloyd sport the national champion colors in 2008 with his Silence-Lotto kit in the big European tours and getting special TV coverage because of it. I believe this was good for promoting Australian cycling. As much as I love seeing the underdogs win a big race, I hope that we see a ProTour rider win the National Road Race this Sunday so he can wave the Aussie flag in high profile races such as the TdF. This will get Australian colors the attention it deserves.