2007 Review – Men

Men’s Road Race
Sunday, 14 January 2007

Victorian Darren Lapthorne, 23, today claimed the biggest success of his career to win the 163km men’s elite road race at the 2007 Australian Open Road Championships in Bunninyong, near Ballarat, Victoria.

“It’s the happiest day of my life,” said Lapthorne who is studying a Bachelor of Business at RMIT in tandem with pursuing his cycling career. “It is an unbelievable moment for me and I’ll never forget it.”

Lapthorne crossed the line well clear at the end of 16 laps in a time of 4hr16min18sec with his Drapac Porsche team mate and Barcelona Olympian, Robert McLachlan, 35, of Canberra, sprinting home 15 seconds later to claim his third Australian Championship silver medal. Tasmanian Karl Menzies, 29, who rides with the American registered Healthnet professional team was third.

“The way it worked out with having my team mate up there as well, I never imagined it,” said Lapthorne who launched a solo break from a leading group of eight riders with 14 kilometres remaining. “I was surprised to get away but once it got up to 30 seconds I thought it’s going to come down now.

“But every time check was 30 sec, 30 sec and I thought if I just keep this tempo going I’ve got a chance and you just put your head down and keep going,” said Lapthorne who’s best previous result was winning the road race at the 2006 Australian Teams Championships in Queensland. “Today we came out and wanted to make a mark on the race and the main aim was to establish a break with the two of us in it (McLachlan and himself)… so it worked out well.”

Lapthorne has his sights set on a career in Europe and hopes to race there this season with his Drapac-Porsche team, Australia’s only registered Pro-Continental team.

McLachlan, who was second in 2005 In Echunga, South Australia, behind Robbie McEwen and in 2004 on today’s Bunninyong course behind Matt Wilson was consoled by the fact the man who beat him was his team mate.

“First and second on the podium is better than the win,” said McLachlan. “I’m stoked to work for Darren, he’s such a generous guy, he’s never selfish and he’ll lie down in front of a train for you.

“He was the strongest out there….he deserved it.”

On the first lap of the race Menzies team mate and eight time Australian time trial champion, Nathan O’Neill, launched a solo attack to set the pace.

“We said to Nathan get in the arly break but we didn’t mean go solo off the front,” laughed Menzies who also had team mate Rory Sutherland in the race. “He (O’Neill) loves that stuff.”

On lap two O’Neill was joined by Simon Gerrans (AG2R-Prevoyance) and Chris Jongewaard. Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) later joined them but on lap eleven their bid was stymied when the main bunch reeled them in.

At that point the pressure was applied and the race splintered leaving 13 riders to fight it out over the last four laps. By two laps to go the lead group had whitled down to eight and as they approached the climbup Mt Bunninyong Rd for the penultimate time Lapthorne jumped clear.

“When he went no one could follow him,” said Menzies. “All credit to Drapac Porsche because it was awesome what they did (taking first and second).”

Friday, 12 January 2007
Men’s Time Trial

2006 Commonwealth Games gold medalllist Nathan O’Neill, 32, lived up to his status as an unbackable favourite to win his fourth straight Australian men’s time trial crown and the eighth of his career with a convincing victory today at the Australian Open Road Championships in Bunninyong, near Ballarat, Victoria.

The Queenslander, who rides with the American based Healthnet professional team, was the only rider in the field to go under 50 minutes for the 39 kilometre course, passing three riders who started ahead of him to finishing in 49min34.59sec. His Healthnet team mate, Canberra’s Rory Sutherland, 24, claimed silver in 50min45.16sec with Victorian David Pell, 26, third in 51min37.11sec.

“I prepared really well but you just never know what’s going to happen on the day and I have been in situations before where I’ve prepared well and haven’t had good legs,” said O’Neill. “(Today) I felt greeat from the start, found my rhythm, felt on top of it the whole way and never looked back.”

O’Neill has already established a record of Australian Championships time trial success that will stand for many years and has warned his rivals there are more to come.

“Every one of them is a special thing and while you can do it you have to make the most of it because you never know how many more years you’re going to have and what’s going to happen,” said O’Neill who almost lost his life in an racing accident in America in July, 2003 when he broke two vertebrae in his neck.

He spent more than two months in a medical ‘halo’ fixed to his skull by fours screws and designed to immobilise his head and neck and has a 5cm titanium screw in his neck as a constant reminder of his self described ‘miracle’ survival.

“I look at every day now as a new opportunity and a new challenge,” said O’Neill after today’s triumph. “I have a new perspective on life since the accident and I’m never going to knock something back and say ‘no I’m not going to worry about it’.

“If there is an opportunity to accomplish something I’m going to do it and if that’s the case I’ll be here for a while yet.”

One of the keys to O’Neill’s success is his meticulour preparation for what is a specialised discipline of road cycling.

“It’s a matter of getting your butt into gear and getting prepared,” he said. “You can’t just climb on the bike a week before and say I’m going to have a go at it, it takes a couple of months of good training to get in form, said O’Neill who, after years of time trial racing, also knows how to pace himself over the distance to ensure he puts every last ounce of energy into the race but doesn’t fade short of the finish.

“I ride the steadiest race I can because I know my threshold and how hard I can go and what I can maintain for an hour,” he explained. “I get there, peg it and stay there and it’s up to others to go harder, faster and have more power (if they want to beat me).

“Today the conditions were favourable and I felt on top of it and was never in any trouble,” he said. “I thank God for giving me the ability to produce the power on the day – it’s been a wonderful day.”

O’Neill says while the win is a good start for 2007 it will be hard to top 2006.

“I had good results on the bike (Australian and Commmonwealth Champion) and off the bike a fanstastic,” said O’Neill who celebrated the birth of his first child, Lydia, with his American born wife, Karen, last September. “It’s a hard one to top when you have a great year – how do you beat it?

“You don’t know what life will dish out for you,” he said. “It could be a huge valley or a huge peak, you just have to trust in God and hopefully it will work out.”

Sutherland, while happy with second, has already begun assessing how he can improve for 2008.

“It’s a time trial so if you’re hurting the whole time (but) I felt good and felt strong and one of the positive things is I can see a lot of points where I can imporve and hopefully start pegging back Nathan,” said Sutherland. “All all credit to him (Nathan) – the guy trains as hard as anyone I know and does everything for his sport and that’s something to admire and respect.

“If I have to be beaten by anyone I’m content it’s a (Healthnet) team mate and good mate of mine.”