By John Trevorrow
Silence Lotto professional Nick Gates is hanging up the racing wheels at the end of this season. And to celebrate his 12 year professional career, some of Gates' best friends will be heading down under to Townsville, Queensland, to join him in his final race and to help him launch the Nick Gates Foundation.
A media launch to announce the exciting new event was held in Townsville this week. Organised by Nick's fiancé Belinda Drake, the launch attracted huge interest. "The city of Townsville is excited at the prospect of the world's leading professionals coming to town. Corporate Townsville are ready to embrace the event which will be raced around one of the most stunning circuits overlooking the beautiful Magnetic Island," Drake said. "But this is really about the youngsters. Nick is proud to announce the formation of the Nick Gates Foundation to help budding young cyclists fulfil their dreams," she added.
Some of the world's best and most famous cyclists will race on a 1.6 km circuit around Townsville's Strand on November 8 in the Nick Gates Classic.
The Classic will be preceded by races for the kids plus corporate events and will be followed, later that evening, by the inaugural Nick Gates Foundation Gala fundraising dinner at Jupiter's Casino in Townsville.
"I love this sport. I want to put something back into it, and supporting our young generation is a fantastic way to do that," Gates said. "I came up with the idea to form a Foundation to help aspiring young cyclists who don't quite fit into the national and state institutes. I want to give them a hand to kick start their careers as far as funding them to races and organising coaching clinics," Nick added.
Here are just some of the world class stars who have decided to support the Nick Gates Foundation: Cadel Evans, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Baden Cooke, Matt Lloyd, Henk Vogels, Adam Hansen, Matt White, Trent Wilson, Scott Davis, Jason Phillips, John Cantwell, plus his Belgian team-mates Wim Vasavenant and Bert Roesems.
Gates and Robbie McEwen have been team-mates on and off for a major part of that time and an emotional McEwen was keen to say a few words about his close mate.
"Nick and I first rode together in the national amateur team in Europe for the 1994 season. For the past six years Nick has been there as my right hand man. A team-mate who selflessly, and happily, sacrificed his own chances to help me.
"We've had some great adventures on and off the bike, all over the world. It's been about winning races of course, but just as much about being there for each other. Nick understands his job and role within the team perfectly and takes great pride in doing his job well. His insight and judgment during races have always been very good and that makes it easier for me to concentrate on my part of the job.
"Nick has always been a loyal team-mate and friend whether I've won or lost, and even if he's had to wait for me during mountain stages of the Tour de France or Giro d'Italia and then ride his bum off to pace me to the finish within the time limit. And all that just so he can do it again the next day with the hope of that I may get a stage win when the flat days came.
"It's hard to put into words how much I appreciate the hard work Nick done over the years to help me win bike races.
"Of course, the fact that Nick is a straight talker and a funny b…….d has always kept things interesting, to say the least, and I'll miss him out training and at the races. When you've cycled nearly half a million kilometres with someone and you're still best mates. Well I think that says enough about what a good bloke he is."
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