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Kathy Watt has secured selection to the Australian Commonwealth Games team after a dominant ride to claim the gold medal in the women's 27km road time trial at the Australian Open Road Championships in the Adelaide Hills town of Mt Torrens.
The 41 year old, who claimed Olympic gold in the road race at the Barcelona Olympic Games and last represented Australia at world championship level in 1999 in Verona, Italy where she finished 10th in the time trial, posted a time of 40-23.82, 33 seconds faster than second-placed Sara Carrigan, the Athens Olympic road race champion. Third place went to Sydney's Natalie Bates, who completed the distance in 41-05.11.
"This is as exciting as winning my first national title," said an overjoyed Watt. "I'm really excited by this as I really wanted to make the Commonwealth Games team and when I saw I could win my way into the team and make it for sure I set my sights on this back in September."
Cycling Australia women's coach Warren McDonald says Watt's ride was impressive. "Cycling Australia for the betterment of the sport wants to see the best riders take the to the start line and Kathy has come up with the performance so CA and the public should recognise that," he said. "I recognise that as a national coach."
The win gave Watt her 25th senior Australian title and will give her the opportunity to race in Melbourne on a course which literally races past the front door of her Melbourne bike shop.
In the men's event, 31-year-old Health Net rider Nathan O'Neill collected his third consecutive Australian time trial crown to give him a total of seven time trial titles since 1994. O'Neill was a convincing winner in a time of 53-14.74, with Luke Roberts three minutes down in second with a time of 56-13.97. Ben Day, who was 13th at last year's World Championships, claimed bronze in a time of 56-26.88.
But O'Neill's win wasn't all smooth sailing with his chain dropping off the chain ring with five kilometres remaining. "I was only stopped for about 10 seconds but it seemed like an eternity," said O'Neill, who by then had a very comfortable lead. "You never want it to happen and I was dreading having a mechanical today but fortunately it wasn't a big deal."
And will he come back in 2007 and try for number eight?
"I said to myself last year - 'six that's probably enough and it's time to give somebody else a go' - but September rolls around and I climb off the bike at the end of the season and then something just comes back, taps me on the shoulder and says 'let's go for the next one', he said. "When I get on the start line of the time trial every year I say to myself - 'this is my race and no one is going to take this one away from me'."
O'Neill arrived back in Australia five weeks ago to prepare for the event and will fly back to his American base in Georgia on Friday to begin racing with the Health Net team.
The men's U23 time trial was won by 21-year-old Shaun Higgerson, who defeated defending champion Mark Jamieson and three-time junior track world champion Miles Olman. Higgerson finished in 56-20.86 for the 40km, 27 seconds faster than Jamieson and 30 seconds up on Olman. Both Higgerson and Olman were recently signed to the newly formed South Australia.com-AIS continental team which will make its debut next week in the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under.
The next event in the Australian championships is Friday's women's road race over 97.5km. The elite men's and the U23 road races take place on Saturday over 175.5km. Race maps and further details can be found on the official event website www.aorc.com.au
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