New Aussie Champion surprises Australia by choosing Wellington

Relief and delight

Relief and delight (Image credit: CJ Farquharson)

Peter McDonald, surprise winner of the Australian road championship at Ballarat last Sunday, has honoured a commitment to contest next week's Trust House Cycle Classic rather than take up an automatic entry into the high-profile Tour Down Under in Adelaide.

McDonald's three-up sprint victory over triple world time-trial champion Michael Rogers and his ProTour team colleague Adam Hansen to secure the title earned McDonald a spot in the composite UniSA national team in the Adelaide event. The race, featuring the return of Lance Armstrong, starts on Sunday.

McDonald was already entered in the Trust House Cycle Classic as a member of the Drapac-Porsche team. He preferred to stay with his teammates next week. "It hasn't sunk in yet, this is by far away my biggest win. We're only a small team but we can do big things," said McDonald. He also won the silver medal in the Australian Criterium Championship last month.

"I competed in the Tour of Wellington in 2005 and I really enjoyed the tour. Four years on, I'm looking forward to returning with my Drapac Porsche team as Australian Champion," McDonald said

McDonald competed for Drapac last year in Europe in UCI Continental events, and won races in Japan and Taiwan. His Ballarat victory came as a surprise to Rogers and Hansen. With their credentials and members of the same Columbia-High Road ProTour team they were expected to out-smart the largely unknown McDonald, who supplements his income as a bike mechanic. Rogers put down the blunder to "a communication error". McDonald has only been riding seriously for five years, and Rogers and Hansen conceded they would not have recognised McDonald in the streets of Ballarat beforehand.

"Peter [McDonald] came here in 2005 after being racing for only two years and showed he is a class rider, a very good climber and after winning the Australian road Championships, beating Tour of France stars will give him lots of confidence for next week's tour," Sandoval said

Having McDonald on the start line at Lower Hutt from next Wednesday is a major coup for Trust House classic race director Jorge Sandoval, who has a second national champion in the field. Gordon McCauley was winning a record fifth New Zealand road title at Te Awamutu, outsprinting three of his Subway Avanti team-mates, Joseph Cooper, Jason Allen and Eric Drower.

McCauley's fifth championship eclipsed the record of Jack Swart in the 1980s, and in the process the Subway squad left Europe-based professionals Julian Dean, Tim Gudsell and Greg Henderson in its wake. McCauley's Subway team will be expected to provide strong opposition to the four Australian professional outfits entered in the Trust House classic from January 21 to 25.

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