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By Benjamin Fitzmaurice
Day 4 of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic saw the top professionals punish the bunch with explosive and sustained attacks. The sound of popping was almost audible as the pace and surges whittled the field down. Finally the Australian criterium champion, Bernie Sulzberger of Virgin Blue, won the day, sprinting to the line ahead of a reduced field.
Sulzberger said after the win: “It makes me very proud to win wearing the Australian champion’s jersey.”
Sulzberger is the older brother of Wes Sulzberger, a new professional rider for French ProTour team Francaise des Jeux. Former pro rider with Toyota United, Henk Vogels, now team manager for Virgin Blue, considers Sulzberger has the same natural talent as Wes. Vogels, a 14-year pro rider with some of the world’s top teams, said of Sulzberger: “He is a very underrated bike rider. His brother, Wes has just signed for FdJ but I really think he has as much talent as Wes does and he is starting to show it now.”
With the win Sulzberger stormed into second place in the general classification with 25 points to the leader, Graeme Brown, with 26 points going into the final day of the Classic series.
Brown will have to mark Sulzberger carefully on stage 5 and play a defensive role if he is to maintain his lead at the conclusion of racing. However, Sulzberger is not Brown’s only threat with Dean Windsor (Drapac Porsche), Robbie McEwen (Team Katuysha) and Simon Gerrans (Cervelo Test Team) on 23, 21 and 20 points respectively.
Brown and his Urban Hotel team members Darren Lapthorne and Kristian House (Rapha Condor) will have to work hard to cover and mark all attacks.
Stage 4 saw Matt Wilson of Team Type 1, riding for O2 Networks, mount two explosive attacks in an effort to get away from the bunch. Wilson spent 18 minutes off the front of the bunch. At various times Wilson was joined by Sulzberger and Daniel Braunsteins of Drapac Porsche only to mount other attacks to put some distance into the bunch and his chasers. The winner of stage 3 of the Classic, Will Walker of Fuji Servetto, also tried unsuccessfully to jump across the gap between the main bunch and Wilson. Wilson eventually finished fourth on the stage.
During the attacks, Brown and his Urban Hotel team controlled the main bunch. In what could have been a costly mistake, Brown miscalculated the number of general-classification points Sulzberger had accumulated during the series. The error means Brown will have to be on his guard during stage 5. After the stage Brown said: “So far, so good. I nearly made a mistake today. I thought the break up the road was not dangerous and as it turns out Bernie Sulzberger had more points than I thought he did. I am only leading by one point now and I really have to watch Bernie now. There are five or six riders I will have to target now to ensure that I can win the overall series.”
In terms of his tactics going into the final stage Brown said: “Another defending day. I won’t let him (Sulzberger) scratch his underarm without me being there. I also will be watching Robbie (McEwen) and Simon (Gerrans). They are class riders when they get a sniff of a win. Gerro (Gerrans) is not a flat road rider but he is still dangerous, like he won in Williamstown, so you can’t discount him. He could quite possibly win again. I just have to make sure that he does not go anywhere.”
While he may not be vying for the general classification going into the final day, Matt Goss of Team Saxo Bank will be looking for individual stage honors as a precursor to his campaign at the Tour Down Under. After stage 4 Goss said: “I am just using this as a platform to be going well for the Tour Down Under. Tomorrow I am ready to have a crack and see what I can do, show my colors up the front and see what happens.”
The final day of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic, stage 5, is a hot-dog course of approximately 600 meters. The corners at each end of the course are wide so it will favor those with some sustained power like Goss and Stuart O’Grady of Team Saxo Bank.
1 Bernie Sulzberger Virgin Blue
2 Rohan Dennis Skilled
3 Daniel Braunsteins Degani/CBD
4 Matt Wilson O2 Networks – Reflections Group
5 Jono Cantwell Virgin Blue
6 Will Walker Degani/CBD
7 Robbie McEwen Bike Hub/Ridley
8 Graeme Brown Urban Hotel
9 Simon Gerrans O2 Networks – Reflections Group
10 Dean Windsor Mazda
JAYCO Yellow Jersey Classification
1 Graeme Brown Urban Hotel 26
2 Bernie Sulzberger Virgin Blue 25
3 Robbie McEwen Bike Hub/Ridley 23
4 Simon Gerrans O2 Networks – Reflections Group 22
5 Dean Windsor Mazda 21
6 Joel Pearson Savings & Loans 18
7 Will Walker Degani/CBD 17
8 Daniel Braunsteins Degani/CBD 16
9 Jono Cantwell Virgin Blue 11
10 Rohan Dennis Skilled 10
11 Baden Cooke O2 Networks – Reflections Group 10
12 Leigh Howard Jayco VIS 8
13 Matt Wilson O2 Networks – Reflections Group 7
14 Mark Renshaw Mazda 7
15 Michael Stallard Savings & Loans 5
16 Tommy Nankervis Total Rush 2
17 Cody Stevenson Budget Forklifts 2
18 Nic Sanderson Rock Racing 1
19 Brett Aitken Savings & Loans 1