Controversy and confusion at national titles

Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto)

Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto) (Image credit: Mark Gunter)

By Les Clarke in Mt Torrens

Following the finish of the men's national road race championship, confusion reigned and tempered flared as former Australian national champion Henk Vogels was told he would be omitted from the results listing, because commissaires believed he had ridden illegally in the final sprint.

According to riders' accounts of the same sprint, Gene Bates moved across from the centre of the road to the left, forcing Nick Gates, Wes Sulzberger and Vogels into the barriers. Commissaires saw events in the final metres differently, deciding that Sulzberger and Vogels rode dangerously and deviated from their line. "They're trying to rub me for a separate incident that happened 300 metres before...there was that much hooking going on; I was on the inside and riding a straight line the whole time," said a furious Vogels after speaking with race officials.

"I was riding a straight line and people were moving across in front of me, and I've been rubbed. I never led out the sprint - how can I move across the road? I'm following the wheel," he continued. "If I was out the front riding left and right then rub me, but I wasn't in front. I rode a straight line all the way until Gene Bates guided me into the barriers."

Vogels was clearly outraged at his omission and at that of young Tasmanian Wes Sulzberger. "The guy hasn't even seen video footage and he's rubbing people. It's half an hour and they still haven't had a look at it," said Vogels. He cited third-placed Russell Van Hout's account of events that something untoward happened and it may have cost Vogels the title. "Russell said there was a big shit and he just rode around it to the national title."

Vogels' father, Henk Snr, said from his home in Perth after the race that Henk had never been omitted for the type of offence before, and that the West Australian classics specialist doesn't ride in that fashion - it's not his style. He had spoken with his son and told of the intense disappointment the younger Vogels felt. And this disappointment wasn't abated when race officials performed a backflip and decided that in fact Gene Bates should be the relegated rider, reinstating Sulzberger to second place and Vogels to fifth.

Many observers of the proceedings following Australia's national championship were disappointed that such an incident should overshadow the heralding of a new star in Australian cycling. For riders and fans it left a sour taste in the mouths of those that should be celebrating the cream of racing on Australian soil.

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