GALLERY: NSW International Grand Prix Series

CYCLING

Canberra riders Thomas Palmer and Michael Matthews produced a memorable day of men’s cycling for the national capital by taking out the big prizes in the NSW International Grand Prix Series on the weekend.

Matthews (Rabobank) made it back-to-back wins in the Cronulla event on Saturday then finished third behind Palmer (Drapac) and Melbourne’s Mitch Docker (Orica GreenEdge) in the Wollongong race under really windy conditions at Flagstaff Hill yesterday.

‘‘The weather made it really hard,’’ Palmer said.

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‘‘The race started pretty hard and then when that lead group started to break away, there was about 10 laps there when the race was made.

‘‘Luckily, unlike yesterday, I was able to make it across and had the legs to get there with that front group.

‘‘I was really confident and knew I had a good chance at the finish.

‘‘It all came together really well and got the win.

‘‘It might have looked like that [a clear win] but it was pretty close. Mitch Docker was right on my shoulder as we came out of the corner and I sort of drew away from him just at the line.

‘‘But when we came round the corner it was pretty close.’’

Matthews won the overall series breaking the stranglehold of St George Cycle Club’s Chris Sutton (Team Sky) who held the series title since the inception of the Grand Prix three years ago.

‘‘It’s been an amazing series with taking the win yesterday and doing the double at Cronulla,’’ Matthews said.

‘‘It was awesome to do that.

‘‘Today just to try and defend the jersey and still finish in the top three was really good considering the riders that are in the series. It was a really strong field out here this year and I hope to come back next year and try and defend the jersey.

‘‘[Conditions] were definitely one extreme to another, 40degree heat yesterday and 100 kilometre winds today.

‘‘I think it tested everyone. It tested everyone’s legs to see how they were going and thank God I had good legs today after yesterday.

‘‘So I got the overall win in the end.’’

Sutton, who has battled a back injury throughout the European season, finished eighth overall after a fifth at Cronulla and ninth in Wollongong.

‘‘It’s been a real good weekend of racing, in Cronulla yesterday then down here in Wollongong,’’ Sutton said.

‘‘For me it’s been a real hectic week training, over 28-hour week training, 800/900 kilometres roughly.

‘‘With my issues this year with my back, it’s been a long road back, 700 plus weeks for three weeks now. I missed a lot of racing this year. Just trying to get back on top of it.

‘‘For sure I’d love to come and win these races, they’re my favourite races to do especially being back home.

‘‘We’ve [Team Sky] taken a different approach this season. We know exactly where I stand, how good I’m going. It all about the classics in March and April... so you really want to be going good and absolutely  flying here when you do these races but you can’t in a way because you have to make sacrifices.

‘‘If you’re absolutely flying now, come March/April you may not be going so well.’’

The courageous ride by 16-year-old Guildford cyclist Jack Edwards (NSWIS) was a feature of yesterday’s race held in strong winds and blustery conditions around the exposed Flagstaff Hill course.

Edwards rode bravely for almost 10 laps to make it across into the lead group then finished strongly for fourth place.

Edwards against showed why he is a future star in Australian cycling, finishing sixth at Cronulla and sixth overall.

He is a triple national junior track champion, national under 17 criterium champion, 2012 Oceania pursuit champion and record holder.

‘‘I was a bit scared yesterday [Saturday] with all the pros and stuff but I thought I’d go out and have a crack today [Sunday],’’ Edwards said.

‘‘I saw about six or seven riders up the road so I thought I might as well go.

‘‘It took me almost 10 laps to get across but I finally got across and started working with the boys and then backed myself in the sprint and ended up with a fourth, so I’m happy.’’

The testing conditions played havoc with the field with many riders forced to withdraw as the race unfolded.

A leading group including Matthews, Docker, Palmer, New Zealander Aaron Gate (L and M Group Racing) and Marc Williams (Budget Forklifts) broke away early in the race,  before Edwards eventually joined them, leading up to the final exhausting sprint to the finish line.

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