Bold race plan pays -- Cantwell claims Criterium
By TANIA PHILLIPS
GOLD Coast-based rider Jon Cantwell celebrated his signing a deal with a US team with an impressive victory in the annual Murwillumbah Cycle Club Banana Festival Criterium at Murwillumbah yesterday.
Cantwell, formerly from the Tweed, was part of a trio of riders that blew the A Grade field apart, taking control of the race staged on the streets of Murwillumbah from the outset.
Cantwell, Gold Coaster Brad Payne and Brisbane rider Matt Wood established a break over the rest of the field early before engaging in a thrilling sprint for the finish line.
A noted sprinter, Cantwell edged out training partner and Gold Coast club-mate Payne in the race for the line to claim his second Criterium title. Wood, a three time runner-up in the Criterium, was forced to settle for third.
Matt Williams finished fourth ahead of Brisbane rider Greg Campbell who missed the start but rode a gutsy race to finish fifth, chasing down the main pack on his own for much of the hour plus two lap. "It was a good race," Cantwell said.
"We didn't have a race plan but this is always a really good course to get away on early.
"We knew who would be dangerous in the field and who to watch and they all went with us.
"But once we were all away we really worked together well."
Cantwell, whose last win in Australia was in the Murwillumbah Cycling Club's Tyalgum Cup in January, only recently returned home after a successful US campaign.
Such was the quality of his rides that he was offered a one-year deal with high-profile outfit Jittery Joe for the 2008 season.
"I won five or six races in America this trip," Cantwell said.
"So I have now signed to be the team sprinter for the American pro team Jittery Joes.
"I will head over there in February to link up with them, after the Tyalgum Cup."
Payne, a previous winner of the Criterium who has been racing in the US alongside Cantwell, described yesterday's race as one of the most exciting he had been in at Murwillumbah.
"It is a very tight circuit," he said.
"We decided to go out early and have a crack at staying away and it paid off."
Payne, said such hard tough racing had played havoc with most of the riders who had not been outside on their bikes for two weeks due to the rain.