Australia’s best cyclists will come together in the first of two Cycling Grand Prix (CGP) events on Sunday, December 4 at South Bank and Sunday, December 11 at Surfers Paradise. Two of the world’s best sprinters, Robbie McEwen and Brad McGee will again meet in this series, fully preparing for their 2006 season, and of course the Australian Road Championships in January.
Queensland’s Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), who reclaimed the Australian Road Race crown in January previously owning it in 2002, is again keen to defend his title. "These ‘crit’ races are really tough and a great preparation looking toward January," said McEwen. "You’ve got some of the world’s best cyclists going round a small course at 50 kpm plus speed - it’s pretty spectacular and I look forward to them every year." McEwen, who is also back to competing on the track at the Sydney Thousand on November 27 at the Dunc Gray velodrome, accumulated eight Giro d'Italia and eight Tour de France stage wins this year, and will undertake in 2006 what he has never before attempted: riding all three Grand Tours in one season.
Nevertheless, McEwen's stranglehold on the Surfers Paradise Criterium was broken last year by the four time Olympic medallist Brad McGee (Française des Jeux). McGee has become the first Australian to wear the 'maillot oro', the leader's gold jersey of the Vuelta a España, and in the process the first Australian to have held the lead in all three Grand Tours.
Another contender of the CGP will be the Brisbane based Kiwi Jaaron Poad. A surprise winner at the Noosa Criterium, edging out Henk Vogels one of the five Australians on the Davitamon-Lotto team, Poad finished third overall in the CGP series last year. With McEwen’s faithful lieutenant Nick Gates sidelined with a broken foot, Vogels will be the workhorse.
Rounding out the top chances are Allan Davis, last year's overall CGP winner, Matt Wilson and Baden Cooke, who both ride with McGee in the French Française des Jeux Team.
The two races in the Queensland Grand Prix Series, featured as a national one hour television special on the Ten Network, will be held in Brisbane around the streets of Grey and Little Stanley at South Bank, and on the Gold Coast around the circuit of Orchid Avenue, The Esplanade and Cavill Avenue. The riders will complete 60 minutes of racing plus three laps.
Amy Gillett Foundation charity ride
On top of this, there will be a Corporate Challenge, B and C Grade race, a Women’s event, as well as the finish of the Amy Gillett Foundation charity ride, which will have begun on December 3 from Maitland and arrive ten days and almost 1000 kilometres later in Brisbane, on Monday, December 12.
The ride is being organised by 2005 Australian Road Champion, Lorian Graham, who was injured in the tragic accident that claimed the life of her team-mate, Amy Gillett in Germany in July this year. She is still undergoing intensive physiotherapy to recover from a serious injury to her right knee in her bid to return to competitive cycling.
Sporting heroes who have committed to support the ride at stages along the route include Robbie McEwen and team mate Henk Vogels, who returned to the European professional circuit this year in the wake of a near fatal crash in June 2003. Also lending support are Olympic swimming gold medallist Duncan Armstrong and triathlete Loretta Harrop.
"The ride aims to raise awareness among motorists and cyclists to promote road safety," said Graham. "We want to represent cyclists of all abilities whether they race, ride for fitness, ride for fun or commute to work on a bike." Preventing needless injuries and deaths on the roads can be done with patience and respect, said Graham. "It's not such a big ask for everyone to be more considerate," she explained. "Cyclists should obey the rules and drivers should be aware of cyclists and exercise caution. What's more important - a couple minutes of your time or someone's life?"
Graham's partner Pete Forbes and his colleague Nick Gallo, both with mining company Runge Limited, are the driving force for the ride and are covering all costs associated with the ride to ensure the maximum amount possible goes to the Foundation.
Lions and Rotary Clubs along the route have also come on board to assist with organisation and fundraising in the local communities. A pool of prizes has been donated for daily raffles and everyone who buys a ticket goes into the draw for a Cannondale Six13 bike, and for some signed sporting memorabilia.
To avoid traffic disruption only a limited number of cyclists will participate at any one time. There are two community rides on offer for others to participate in raising awareness for the Foundation. For information and details of how to donate to the Amy Gillett Foundation please visit the Cycling Australia website at www.cycling.org.au