Mountain biker hoping for London 2012 berth
For Budget Forklifts rider Chris Jongewaard, Thursday's effort in the day's break at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour was just another step towards finally securing an Olympic berth.
Jongewaard is hoping to become an Australian Olympian for the first time, albeit in mountain biking, at the London Olympic Games next July – an opportunity he missed in 2008 because he faced criminal charges over a hit and run incident involving former national representative rider Matthew Rex in 2007. He was later sentenced to nine months in gaol.
Ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Jongewaard was selected and then dropped from the team following a successful appeal by Josh Flemming. Riding on the road, as he has for part of the Australian National Road Series this year, is just a way of getting the kilometres back in his legs and raising the bar in his race for fitness toward a berth in London in 2012.
"I don't quite have the capacity yet but these are the type of races that I need to be doing to get back to good condition so it's just a stepping stone to hopefully getting back to being in good form," he told Cyclingnews.
Jongewaard spent around 90 kilometres of the day's 140km second stage off the front of the bunch with Pure Black's Tim Gudsell before finally being caught 10km from the finish in Geelong.
Jongewaard and his fellow escapee may have been reeled in, but the 32-year-old South Australian took the lead in the King of the Mountains classification and was also named the stage's most aggressive rider. Not a bad result given he was hovering off the back of the main bunch after struggling the on first climb of the day over Mt. Buninyong.
In March, Jongewaard won the cross country and short track events at the Australian MTB National Championship before joining domestic road team Jayco-2XU for the NRS. He later left the outfit and then returned to mountain bike team Milka-Trek, where he'd ridden in 2009 before his stint behind bars, and raced in Europe.
Jeremy Betts' Budget Forklifts was chasing riders for this week's UCI 2.1 race, and Jongewaard jumped at the opportunity.
"Getting the opportunity to get a start in the Sun Tour's great because you're racing against the best in the world," he explained. "In 2006, Jongewaard finished second overall behind compatriot Simon Gerrans.
Having last week had a "positive" chat with the Australian Olympic Committee's chef de mission Nick Green regarding the behavioural standards expected by the team, Jongewaard remains focused on London.
"I'm definitely open-minded - I have a good team that I've signed with overseas, Bart Brentjens' Milka- Trek," he said. "They have a great team atmosphere and they're really well organised.
"More than anything, I'm glad to be back on their team because they basically have taken me on, Olympics or no Olympics... The Olympics are fantastic and that's what I really want to do, but if they don't come around, it's also good to be among the top 10 in World Cups."
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