Cancer survivor Wilson becomes new Aussie champion
BALLARAT (Australia): France-based Matthew Wilson gave his hopes of claiming a ride in this year’s Tour de France a major boost by comfortably winning the Australian national road race title here Sunday.
The 26-year-old from Victoria, who rides with Brad McGee and Baden Cooke in the Fdjeux.com team, sailed solo across the finish line of the 180km race after holding off Robert McLachlan and 1998 Australian champion David McKenzie. Wilson last season scored a major victory in actually being selected for and riding the Tour de France for the first time.
It was only in 2001 that he successfully fought back from life-threatening Hodgkins disease to rejoin the European peloton. And after succeeding the absent Stuart O’Grady as national champion, the Victorian admitted he would need time to get used to the idea of wearing the green and gold jersey throughout the coming season. Wilson failed to finish last year’s Tour de France after an untimely mishap on the 11th stage which could have harmed his chances of selection in the future. The Melbourne rider finished 21min 44sec and outside the permitted time limit because an asthma attack left him short of breath and even the race doctors didn’t have the proper emergency medicine.
That episode left him wondering whether his boss at Fdjeux.com, Marc Madiot, would think twice about picking him for the Tour again. But winning the Aussie title in front of Madiot - a former winner of the gruelling Paris-Roubaix one-day classic - has given Wilson some room to breathe. “It was fantastic to have my team boss here as well because it’s a contract year for me and now the pressure’s off already and I can have an exciting 2004. Of the other big names Cooke finished seventh 3min44sec behind Wilson. Allan Davis finished tenth at 7min58sec, while McGee placed 18th at 7min58sec. Robbie McEwen, the national champion in 2002, was 21st at 10min27sec. —AFP