It was a fantastic effort from Deon Locke (Champion Systems) to win the stage. It may be bitter sweet though as Locke was dumped from the team...
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No room on Champion System for talented Aussie
Australian rider Deon Locke's time at Continental team Champion System finishes at the end of the season and his search is on for a new home. The former Queensland triathlete has been competing as a professional cyclist for four years, spending time on the road between Europe and Asia.
24-year-old Locke began his career with Australian Continental teams FRF Couriers and Budget Forklifts in 2009. The following year he switched to CKT before they re-formed to become Champion Systems at the start of this season.
The team is now under the guidance of American Ed Beamon and will become Asia's first UCI Professional Continental team in 2012. The team has recruited extensively, hiring Americans Craig Lewis and Chris Barton and Aussie William Clarke from the WorldTour. Unfortunately for Locke, he didn't fit into the team's plans.
Beamon explained, "It was a pretty difficult decision but it was going to be impossible to keep too many of the 2011 guys.
"We expect to step up the competitive schedule for the team in 2012 and that meant using some of our roster places to bring in some experienced guys and at the same time we wanted to have a big group of Asian based riders, so ultimately it meant that there was only going to be room for a handful of guys coming from the 2011 program," he added.
Locke's season was interrupted earlier in the year when he suffered an elbow injury after a heavy fall. He returned to racing in June, basing himself in Switzerland and raced the 2.2 Fleche du Sud in Luxembourg. Top-10 and podium placings featured heavily in European criteriums over the next couple of months for Locke before he finished second in the King of the Mountains competition at the 2.1 Tour of China in September.
He excelled in the heat and longer road stages and was at home in breaks or riding solo well ahead of the peloton. He quickly earned a reputation as an aggressive rider and his strength from his triathlon background was coming to the fore.
After China, Locke competed in Mongolia where he finished fourth overall and at the recent 2.HC Tour of Hainan he showed his fighting spirit in the fourth stage into the island's capital of Haikou. After becoming involved in a break not long after the start of the 163 kilometre stage, he aligned with two other riders to lead the race for more than 100 kilometres. When all seemed lost he went it alone and rode the final thirty-five kilometres solo to the line, holding a charging Skil-Shimano and Astana led peloton at bay.
Many on the tour rank it as the finest stage win in the race's history. That win showed the true grit and determination of Locke to succeed and play a part in the elite of world cycling.
Despite the decision to move Locke on, Ed Beamon realises the strength and character the tattooed Aussie displays in his racing. "I knew he was strong," he said. "He's still young so it's not a career ending decision and I told him at the time to keep his head up and channel his frustration into good results".
"I'm sure Deon has the potential to make an impact in the years to come," Beamon added.
Locke's recent experiences in the tough conditions of Asian races like the Tour de Langkawi, China and Hainan make him a nice target for teams looking to add some strength to their roster. "I have adapted to riding in the cold of the early Euro season races but my specialty is the extreme heat of Asia… this is where I shine and can cope with the heat a little better than others for some reason," Locke explains.
He is an 'opportunist' Locke says, willing to sacrifice his day in the saddle for a team leader and prepared to spend hours up the road in a break only to be reeled in at the end - anything for the team. "I am a selfless rider and if asked to ride the front all day for a fellow teammate then I would jump at the chance".
"I have a good work ethic. Once I am on board with a team it is my home and I promote that team with professionalism and effort," Locke proudly explained.