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First Edition Cycling News extra for January 4, 2007

Response to Christmas Carnivals Comment

A recent story in Tasmanian newspaper, The Advocate, on Wednesday, January 3, 2007, was highly critical of the handicapping at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals, recently held on Australia's 'Apple Isle'. This is the response to that article - and other criticism of the handicaps this year - from the man in the centre of the infield.

As the appointed senior track handicapper for the 2006-07 Tasmanian carnivals season, I would like to respond to the following claims, as asserted by Nigel Tapp.

Of the original 106 entries for the Christmas series, eight riders were afforded the prestige mark of scratch. A further 17 riders were allocated handicaps which allocated them A Grade status. West Australian Cameron Meyer was adjusted to scratch after three days of racing.

This was offset by the loss of scratchman Mark Jamieson through illness after the Boxing Day Carnival. No previous handicapper - the current handicapper - and I would imagine no future handicapper would accept responsibility for the form, riders bring to the carnivals.

Handicaps are adjudged on "score on the board". The majority of previous handicappers - and the current handicapper - have drawn heats up allowing for an individual rider to "chase down" 10 metres over a 1000 metre race. If it is a 2000 metre race or 3000 metre race, riders are then placed alongside - or near - riders of similar ilk to compete on reasonable distance gaps.

The Advocate's author would do well to remember that the major races that the media and some spectators are interested in are handicap events, therefore every rider must be given an even chance of winning, not just the elite scratchmen. It is not all about scratchmen winning the major races and the middle-to-front markers simply making up a support cast. If this was the case, the carnivals would attract nothing more than an elite cast of 20 riders.

I defend my allocation of handicaps and heats with the following FACTS (as proven by events of the 2006-07 series):
Scratchman Ben Kersten is second on Cycling Tasmania's Order of Merit prizemoney list with earnings of $7715, behind only Jayden Veljacich, who won the Latrobe Wheel, which has the biggest purse of all events;
Scratchman Nathan Clarke is fourth on the OOM;
Scratchman Cameron Meyer is sixth on the OOM;
Scratchman Leigh Howard is 14th on the OOM.

Other A Grade riders to placed inside the top 25 of the OOM include Glenn O'Shea (10th), Adrian Hanson (11th), Tom Robinson (12th), Travis Meyer (17th), James Langedyk (18th), Evan Oliphant (20th), Jack Bobridge (21st) and Scott Sunderland (22nd). These OOM figures have been on display at all carnivals for riders and the general public and members of the media, to see.

B Grade riders such as Duane Johannson (West Australia), John Rayner, Tom Robinson, Clay Murfett and Aaron Jones approached the handicapper and asked for a reduction in handicap because they felt their marks were too lenient and wanted to race towards the back of the fields in handicap races. Three of those mentioned also wanted to compete in the A Grade Scratch races.

Latrobe Wheel winner Jayden Veljacich was re-handicapped after small success at the Rosebery Carnival and did not ride off the mark as highlighted in Tapp's top 10 performances. Can Tapp produce documentation of Veljacich's previous victories to warrant any other mark?

Since when did handicap races become a benefit for scratchmen? If you want to see a scratchman win every race, watch the scratch races, but even then the out-of-form elite riders were upstaged by the talented crop of youngsters on offer. The negative press from selected A Grade scratch races, highlighted some reporters' ignorance of the sport. Where was the positive reaction to the outstanding performances of Adrian Hanson (8000 m at Latrobe), Cameron Meyer (16,000 m at Latrobe and Burnie), Travis Meyer (Launceston) and Leigh Howard (8000 m & 16,000 m double at Devonport)?

Perhaps the baton of the elite scratch riders has already been passed from the likes of Carney and Young to Howard and Meyer? No mention in The Advocate of the A Grade Scratch race at the Launceston Silverdome, or for that matter, any other race in Launceston either.

The Advocate would also do well to realize that Ben Kersten, Joel Leonard, Jobie Dajka and Scott Sunderland are sprinting specialists and not suited to long distance scratch races, but as contracted riders are expected to compete in those events.

The carnivals also suffered the sickness of Mark Jamieson after Latrobe, leaving us one scratchman short for the bulk of the week. I spoke to ALL scratchman throughout the carnivals and not one of them complained of their marks to me personally, whilst all agreed the quality of the middle markers was above expectations.

In my opinion, Ben Kersten, Nathan Clarke, Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer were the pick of the scratchmen for the 2006-07 Christmas Carnivals. Of the others
Jame Carney: Looked pre-occupied with coaching fellow Americans - Shane Kline and Erica Allar. Recently turned 38 but still managed 37th on the Order of Merit;
Joel Leonard: Good in the sprints, but looked unsuited in the longer events. Is currently 27th on the Order of Merit;
Mark Jamieson: Fell ill, produced a doctor's certificate and did not race after first day of Latrobe Carnival;
Stephen Rossendell: Looked underdone and ended up being a "workhorse" for other riders. He did however make the 2000 metre and 3000 metre handicap finals at Burnie on New Year's Day;
Darren Young: Similar to Rossendell and perhaps he is on the wrong side of 30, but still made the handicap final of the Burnie Wheel.

Five scratchmen - plus Jack Bobridge (off 15 metres) - all qualified for the 2007 Burnie Wheel - the same equation as the 2005 wheel - but failed to win.

I am more than happy to wear criticism from people with credibility within cycling and so far, there has been none forthcoming.

Rod Morris
Senior Track Handicapper
Cycling Tasmania

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