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Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals
Tasmania, December 26, 2004 - January 1, 2005
Brown, Kersten and Carney highlight Tasmanian carnivals
Women's wheelraces feature for first time
The Sports Carnivals Association of Tasmania (SCAT) launched its 2004-05 Tasmanian track carnival series at a press conference in Devonport on November 17. The carnivals, which have more than 100 years of history behind them, have once again attracted some top quality track cyclists. Dual Olympic Games gold medallist Graeme Brown headlines the field, along with Olympian ben Kersten, Americans Jame Carney (winner of six major Tasmanian wheelraces), Bobby Lea (multiple US champion), Mike Friedman, Joshua Kerkhof and Gui Nelessen (all US team pursuit champions). Another international rider is German individual and team pursuit specialist Christian Lademann.
Australian Junior Track Cyclist of the Year, Michael Ford, has also been confirmed for the s Basslink Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals Series. Earlier this year, Ford smashed a 10 year-old World record at the Australian National track championships in the 3000m individual pursuit. Ford was clocked at 3:17.775 during the event, beating previous record holder Brad McGee's time by two seconds. In August, Ford won both the World Junior Individual and Team Pursuit Championships in Los Angeles. Ford has ridden the Tasmanian Carnivals previously as a junior, but will now take the challenge up to the big guns of the sport.
Another significant addition to the programe is Czech dual Paralympic gold medalist Jiri Jezek. Jezek (30) won both the men's road race and individual pursuit track titles at this year's Paralympic Games in Athens. A former mountain bike rider, Jezek does not specialise on track or road, but is equally adept at either. Jezek also won world Para titles in 1994, 2000 and 2002 and is rated No. 1 disabled rider in his country. His disability however will not prevent him from competing in the Tasmanian Carnivals, where he has been handicapped to ride from 70, 140 and 210 m in the lightning handicap and major wheelrace events.
It is also likely that Jezek will line up in B Grade Scratch events at most carnivals. Jezek will be a first time visitor to the Tasmanian Carnivals, but has expressed a desire to compete well, according to Sports Carnivals Association of Tasmania Chairman Mr Grant Atkins. "Jiri has a great track record, his personal best times stack up extremely well against some able bodied riders and I'm sure he will compete on a level basis with others," Mr Atkins said.
The 2004-05 SCAT series will again include five carnivals at Latrobe, Launceston, Devonport (x 2) and Burnie, as well as including two criterium races in Launceston and Burnie, for a total of seven straight days/nights of racing. A feature of the Carnivals will be a dedicated series of handicap and scratch races for women, and for the first time in the history of the carnivals, each of the four SCAT clubs will run a women's wheelrace.
For the third year in a row, Basslink is the naming rights sponsor for the series. The Tasmanian Government and Cradle Coast Authority are also major sponsors, along with Australia Post, Malaysia Airlines and Devonport based companies, Fairbrothers, Russell-Smith and Degree C.
Top women head to Tassie
The 2004-05 Tasmanian Christmas carnivals will have a separate women's series, unlike previous years when top female riders had to compete against the men. It's a development that has already met with approval from three of Australia's top female track riders who have signed up for this year's series.
Rochelle Gilmore, Alexis Rhodes and Jessie MacLean will head the Australian female presence at the carnivals, and it's expected that the contingent from Jame Carney's Northwestern Mortgage Pro Cycling Team will include top US female riders.
In 2003 Gilmore, now 23, became the only woman ever to qualify for one of the carnival's wheel races when she got through the heats of the Devonport wheelrace which was eventually rained off. Since then, Gilmore has won three Australian track titles, a World Cup team sprint and on the road, the eighth stage of the 2003 female Giro d'Italia
Rhodes and MacLean are two of Australia's most promising young riders. Rhodes - who turns 20 today - was awarded Australia's Junior Female Track Cyclist of the Year in 2002 after winning the individual pursuit title at the World Junior Championships. Since then she has been Australian criterium and points race champion respectively, and won the points race at the 2004 Sydney World Cup.
MacLean (19) was Australia's Junior Female Track Cyclist of the Year in 2003 and is a former world junior individual pursuit champion. She represented Australia at the World Junior Track Championships in Russia last year.
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com