AARON Kemps’s first race in his new Fly V Australia colours could not have panned out any better.
On Thursday night the Bundaberg rider stood on top of the podium after surging to victory in the Wattbike Australian Criterium, at the Scody Australian Open Road Championships, Ballarat.
The newly-crowned national champion was ecstatic with his perfect start to 2010, especially given the frustrations of the previous year.
Kemps put his days with Rock Racing behind him with a brilliant final sprint.
After 44 punishing kilometres, only a bike length separated him from Victorian Dean Windsor and Tasmanian Will Clarke.
The win was set up when Fly V team-mates Bernie Sulzberger (2009 Australian criterium champion) and David Kemp joined Kemps in the lead pack.
They worked together to propel their lead sprinter into top spot.
“I felt great and I got that feeling I was going to win it when I was in that leading group,” Kemps said.
“Bernie and David did well to lead me out. It’s a great team. I’m proud to be a part of it and I’ll take this jersey to the States and wear it with pride.”
Kemps had been training with the squad at Falls Creek in Victoria since December 28 — their main goal being a criterium gold from within the team.
“I tried to be as aggressive as I could from the start and my legs felt really good, but all the boys rode really well. We did a great job,” Kemps said.
The win consolidates his standing among the country’s top riders, after a quiet year of racing in 2009 left him underdone when the big rides came along.
“I didn’t have anything to prove. My team knows I’m a quality rider, but I’m very happy to get off to a great start with the new team and hopefully there are more wins down the track this season for me and for Fly V,” he said.
Last season his program was limited by his ties to the Rock Racing team.
A starter in less than 20 rides all year, Kemps finished the season dejected and wanting more.
His decision to team with Richard Branson’s Fly V Australia proved to be just the spark he needed to return to the winner’s circle.
“It is a team for Australians and I am proud to be in an Australian team. Now I am proud to take this jersey overseas and represent Australia,” he said.
Father Bernie Kemps cut a proud figure at home after hearing the news.
“It’s a great result for him after the year he has just had,” he said.
“It shows that he has joined a good team that are capable of quite a lot.”
The national champion barely had time to try on his new green and gold jersey before he was back in the saddle yesterday.
A light ride yesterday morning and another today will keep his legs warm for the 16-lap, 163km road race tomorrow.
“I’m riding well, but I think the road race might be a bit out of my reach at this stage,” he said.
“We have a couple of good climbers in our team who will fancy their chances.”
Instead of looking for honours his attention will shift to supporting his team-mates who have a more realistic shot at number one spot. But he is not writing off his chances completely.
“Anything can happen in a road race,” he said.
“I could get in a breakaway pack and hang on, you never know.”