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114th Urban Austral Wheelrace
By Chris Graetz
Date: 12/16/2009
114th Urban Austral Wheelrace

114th Urban Austral Wheelrace
Nineteen year old Ben Sanders achieved what his father did in 1978. Claiming a sensational victory in the Austral Wheelrace.

Nineteen year old Ben Sanders has written his name into the history books, joining his father Dave as a winner of the Urban Austral Wheelrace - Australia’s oldest and most prestigious track cycling race.

Sanders started the final as $3 second favourite to take the title and riding off 80m was in front at the bell and was able to hold off the challenge from defending champion Shane Perkins who finished out of the placings. Darren Rodgers (130m) finished second ahead of Jaron Gardiner (125m) in third.

In what was billed as one of the strongest Austral fields in history – if not ever – the heats and subsequent repecharges witnessed a number of the fancied riders eliminated, including American Olympian Giddeon Massie, world points race champion Cameron Meyer, dual Olympic gold medallist Graeme Brown and under-23 time trial world champion Jack Bobridge.

However, the race will be remembered for the emotional embrace of father and son, the first such duo to win the Austral in the 112 editions of the event.

Dave Sanders, now a father figure of Australian cycling in his role as head coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport cycling program, and a key mentor to superstars like world champion Cadel Evans and grand tours stage winner Simon Gerrans, won this race of 50m in 1978.

His son Ben, himself a world junior championships silver medallist and Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder, now has his name on a trophy the family regard as more important than any other on the domestic cycling scene.

“It’s bigger than the national champs, or any other race in Australia. For old school cycling people this is huge,” Sanders Snr said fighting back tears after the win.

“This is bigger than the national championships, or anything else, this is history, a lifetime experience.”

For Sanders Jnr, the weight of expectations after three years of attempts was obvious.

“You couldn't get much happier than me right now. This race is just the biggest thing," Ben Sanders said when asked if the family surname was a burden he responded by admitting it had weighed him down the past few years.

"It has for the last two or three years I've ridden this, and I haven't even made the final. When they said I was the (second) favourite just before it I thought, 'oh, the omen's back', because every time my name was mentioned for it I couldn't perform. But everything came together on the day."

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The final event of the year for the track stars is Friday’s Australian madison championships, featuring defending champion Glenn O’Shea who will ride with world points race champion Cameron Meyer, along with Graeme Brown and under-23 time trial world champion Jack Bobridge.

Australian Madison Champions

When: Friday 18 December 2009, 7pm
Where: Darebin International Sports Centre, Thornbury Arena, Melbourne
Tickets: At the door

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