By Les Clarke in Adelaide
Sydney rider Katherine Bates has become Australian national road race champion after taking the title outside Adelaide yesterday. After a sedate start to the race, Bates went with fellow Sydney rider Amanda Spratt after the 19 year-old broke away from the bunch late in the race. After Spratt fell away, Bates rode with Olympic road race champion Sara Carrigan to the finish, taking the two-up sprint in the final metres.
The 23 year-old, who will ride with the powerful Nurnberger squad in 2006, was overjoyed at taking the national champion's jersey after missing the time trial on Wednesday. "The most exciting thing is being able to take the green and gold jersey overseas, for sure. I'm always finishing second and so I opted to sit out the time trial out because I thought I'm just going to give this a crack; if I don't win it, I'm not good enough, it's not because I have done another race. I feel fantastic actually, new team, new jersey," she said post-race.
Bates will most likely be an integral part of Nurnberger's plans for 2006, and she's aware of the opportunity she's been given. "I want to be able to integrate myself into Nurnberger really well and help Oenone win another World Cup. We've got the world champion in there as well. So it is a pretty impressive team and I just want to be part of that and work with it, and then work toward the road world championships," she continued.
Oenone Wood, whose role in controlling the peloton behind Bates was vital to her win, was hopeful of a big season for her young charge after a great start to 2006. Bates will slot into a team which has lost some of its stars, but Wood is confident Bates will fit in perfectly. "We've lost a couple of top quality riders; Liv's gone to Nobili and Judith Arndt has gone to T-Mobile; obviously it's hard to replace riders like that, but picking up talents like Kate Bates has filled the gap, I think. Kate's a strong rider, so I'll think she'll fit straight in," said Wood.