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The controversy following the Australian road championship on Saturday rumbles on, with race winner Will Walker admitting his dismay after he was told he would not be awarded the national champion's jersey because of his age. Walker, 20, won both the senior and under-23 titles in Mount Torrens, but was subsequently told that the champion's jersey would be going to third-placed Russel Van Hout, who was the first senior finisher.
While Walker will wear the under-23 winner's jersey, Cycling Australia's rules say the Rabobank continental team rider is too young to wear the senior jersey. "I still believe I am the true champion," Walker told The Australian on Sunday. "I was given the two gold medals, which is no real consolation as Russel Van Hout gets to wear the jersey. This has only made me more determined to win it again next year, and one day go on and win the Tour de France."
Although Walker, unlike most of his ProTour rivals in the national title race, has been released by his European-based team to ride in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March, this was little consolation for him in the aftermath of his 'victory'. "The news ruined my day, it was very disappointing. I can't really understand those rules, but I guess that's life," he said.
"We race against the professionals, we should be able to wear the jersey. It seems ridiculous that they can't do it - Cycling Australia should change [the rules]."
There was support for Walker from Victorian Institute of Sport coach Dave Sanders. "Jan Ullrich was under 23 when he won the Tour de France back in 1997, let's get real," Sanders said.
Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks issued a statement saying the rules on jerseys were set out by the International Cycling Union. "It's simply not in the rules. Willy Walker has the honour of being the first person to ever win both and will also be the last," Fredericks said. The races will be run separately next year.
The incident also had repercussions for Davitamon's Henk Vogels, who finished fifth in the race, but later found out he had effectively been sprinting for the national title against Van Hout. Vogels was incensed after the race because he was blocked in the sprint by Gene Bates, who was later relegated from fourth to eighth place.
Van Hout, meanwhile, looks unlikely to get the chance to show off his national colours outside his home continent. After a number of seasons with the Selle Italia team, the 29 year old has agreed to join a new team managed by ex-pro Patrick Jonker. The Savings & Loans team will compete in the Oceanic continental series.
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