Unavailable for duties with the national squad in the 2006 Commonwealth Games road race, Chris 'CJ' Sutton recently made his way to Europe to start work for the French ProTour squad, Cofidis.
And the 21 year-old Australian neo-pro has already rewarded his employers with an upset win in the 202km Cholet-Pays De Loire, an UCI 1.1 road race held in France last Sunday. Sutton, the son of former world points race champion Gary Sutton and considered one of Australia's brightest prospects, was up against several ProTour teams and many experienced professionals, such as wily Belgian Niko Eeckhout (Davitamon-Lotto), who finished in second, and fellow Australian Baden Cooke from Unibet, who ran fifth.
'CJ' was one of the riders "heavily considered" for selection for Australia's Commonwealth Games road race squad, but selectors felt it was in the best interests of the young rider to let him finally start his career with one of Europe's top teams, said Cycling Australia high performance manager Kevin Tabotta.
Earlier this year Sutton had been held up from going to Europe by work visa problems, and Cofidis had wanted him to start racing in January. He continued training in Australia before heading over to Europe last month, so his win last weekend was considered a major surprise given that he had not had much racing in his legs.
Like many of the Australians racing for ProTour teams in Europe, Sutton also has a considerable pedigree on the track and has successfully carried over his skills to the road.
"I started feeling very good with 50 kilometres to go," he told Cyclingnews after the finish. "Then it came to a bunch sprint. The last kilometre was really dangerous. I thought I was going to crash but I got through. Unibet was doing a perfect job for Baden Cooke so I went on his wheel and I sprinted down the left. Beating these guys is unbelievable. This is a dream come true. Baden Cooke is one of the best sprinters in the world!"