Garry Millburn leads Chris Jongewaard over the barriers. Pic by John Peters.
Garry Millburn (NSW) won a dramatic Round 2 of the Elite Mens National Cyclocross Series at Nundah today, beating Chris Aitken (NSW) and Chris Jongewaard (SA) through the application of relentless pressure in the finale.
National champion and series leader Lisa Jacobs (Vic) completed a clean sweep of the weekend in the Elite Womens race, defeating Melissa Anset (Vic) and Oenone Wood (NSW).
The positioning of a double barrier in the lead-up to the last couple of turns before the sprint proved to be crucial in the men’s race, and Millburn handled the barriers faster and better than Aitken and Jongewaard.
Barriers played a major role in the previous day’s race at Nerang, where the two barriers were placed on different parts of the course. Round 1 race winner Paul Van Der Ploeg and Aussie champion Jongewaard both gained vital seconds by bunny-hopping those barriers each time. Millburn and Aitken were dismounting and running the barriers.
But at the Nundah-drome for Round 2, the barriers proved to be the undoing of both Van Der Poeg and Jongewaard.
Much of the chat pre-race revolved around a particularly muddy creek crossing, but in the race all elite riders took the same line at the creek, going a slightly longer, less direct, but safer line.
The risk vs reward equation was different at the barriers.
Early on both Van Der Ploeg and Jongewaard were jumping the barriers, which were spaced about six metres apart. A lead group had formed comprising Aitken, Millburn, Van De Ploeg, Jongewaard, Tom Chapman (SA) and Allan Iacuone (Vic).
But only a couple of laps in, Van Der Ploeg crashed over the bars on the second barrier, catching his back wheel. Van Der Ploeg chased hard throughout the race, but never regained the front group.
Van Der Ploeg’s accident also split Chapman and Iacuone off the back of the lead group, and when it all shook down, the leading trio was Aitken, Millburn and Jongewaard. Iacuone and Chapman raced consistently behind the leaders to finish in fourth and fifth.
Jongewaard seemed like the dominant personality in the leading group. He is a vastly experienced rider, who has won many many races in CX, mountain biking and road racing.
But about halfway through the race, it was Jongewaard’s turn to stack it over the second barrier. He chased the leaders and got back on within about half a lap, and got a big cheer from the crowd when he successfully jumped the barriers the next lap around.
But it was on the final lap that the tactics really came to the fore. Millburn surged to the front, and ran the barriers at full speed. Jongewaard tried to pass him by bunny-hopping, but once again failed to clear the second barrier with his rear wheel. The champ was down, and in the process he slightly impeded Aitken.
So it was Millburn who sprinted clear down the finishing straight to take his first NCXS race win. Aitken finished second and took the series lead. Jongewaard was third.
Local organiser and the local cyclocross crowd are seeing the Queensland rounds of the NCXS as a great success. The racing was of a standard never before seen in Queensland, the courses were designed to make the most of the natural features of each venue, and it was great to see the racers respond so positively.
In the Elite women, Lisa Jacobs turned the two-race weekend into a cyclocross clinic, riding so smoothly and strongly that the rest of the small field had no chance of staying with her. In an interview after the first race, Lisa said that Oenone Wood was someone she looked up to when she (Lisa) first came into cycling, and it was an honour for her to be racing against Wood.
But on the second day, Oenone found it difficult to back up, and said her lack of preparation for the event showed. Mel Anset came on strong on the second day to reverse the previous day’s results and take second place.
The depth of the Elite mens field is shown by the fact that there were two different race winners on the weekend (Van Der Ploeg and Millburn), but even so a third rider (Chris Aitken) took the series lead.
Millburn and Aitken are younger than most of their series rivals, and are well-placed to make this a season-long battle.
Lisa Jacobs is a deadset superstar. John Peters photo.