Australian crit champion to be decided in Geelong
The seaside towns around Melbourne, Australia will play host to the 2006 edition of what's becoming an annual sprinters' show-down when the five-day Jayco Bay Classic criterium series starts in Williamstown on Wednesday January 4.
Presented by Australia's leading caravan manufacturer, Jayco, the series will see Robbie McEwen trying to do a Lance Armstrong and take out win number seven, while Baden Cooke plans to throw a spanner in the works and repeat his 2004 win. Cooke will be assisted by friend and FdJ team-mate Brad McGee who this year become the first Australian to wear all three Grand Tour leader's jerseys. McGee showed his class in winning a tough stage in Portarlington in 2004.
Kiwi Greg Henderson will be back and looking to improve on his sprint series and stage win of a couple of years back. With other serious contenders in Mark Renshaw, Simon Gerrans, Henk Vogels, Brett Lancaster and Hilton Clarke, the Jayco Bay Classic looks set to live up to its reputation as the fastest criterium series in the world.
The women's event has evolved into a brilliant series over the past decade, and will again be a teams event. The international women's series will feature dual World Cup champion Oenone Wood, Olympic road race gold medallist Sara Carrigan and Olympic pursuit silver medallist and world champion Katie Mactier.
Wood, the defending champion, had a great year and she will start favourite. But she will have plenty of stiff opposition. Other riders to put up their hands to challenge are Germany's Ina Teutenberg, Rochelle Gilmore, 2003 winner Kate Bates, Belinda Goss and 2004 runner up Hayley Brown (nee Rutherford). One of the highlights of the series will be the expected return to racing of Kate Nichols and Alexis Rhodes after the crash in Germany earlier this year that killed their AIS team-mate Amy Gillett.
Australian crit championship
The Friday evening event on Geelong's magnificent waterfront will also be the Australian Criterium Championship for men and women. The men's support event has become a fantastic race over recent years with the young stars of the future rivalling the speeds of the international race. Many say it is harder to win the support race in the Bay Series than most A Grade events around the country.
On Saturday January 7, the 2006 Jayco Bay Classic will host the inaugural Amy's Ride, a memorial event in Geelong to raise funds for the Amy Gillett Foundation. The ride provides a unique opportunity for thousands of cycling fans to ride with the stars of the Jayco Bay Classic.
The ride starts at 9.30am. All sponsorship dollars raised and $10 from each entry will go towards the Amy Gillett Foundation. For more information go to www.amysride.com.au
There is also a grand Gala Dinner at the Melbourne Sofitel on Jan 8. This wonderful night is also the Victorian Cycling Hall of fame awards night and is hosted by Phil Liggett and Rob Gaylard. It gives another special opportunity to mingle with the elite of the cycling world.
Jayco Bay Classic 2006
Race 1 - Wednesday, January 4: Williamstown
Race 2 - Thursday, January 5: Portarlington
Race 3 - Friday, January 6: Ritchie Blvd
Race 4 - Saturday, January 7: Geelong Botanic Gardens
Race 5 - Sunday, January 8: Melbourne Docklands
For more information see www.jaycobayclassic.com.au