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Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals
Tasmania, December 23, 2006 - January 20, 2007
Western Australian rookie wins Australia's richest wheel race
By John Michael Flynn in Latrobe
Stunning start to National Grid Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals
Add another name to Western Australia's track cycling riches! Jayden Veljacich, a training partner of the multiple Junior World Championship winning Meyer brothers, today produced the performance of his life to win Tasmania's famed Latrobe Wheel Race.
In the process Veljacich pocketed the winner's share of a twelve and a half thousand dollar cash prize pool and caught the eye of the race handicapper, who will be well justified in penalizing the Perth teenager heavily for the remainder of the prestigious National Grid Tasmanian Christmas Carnival Series.
"Oh that was awesome, everyone comes here to win Latrobe, and that was what I wanted to do, win Latrobe," an emotional Veljacich told Cyclingnews after burning off his rivals in the finishing straight. "I've been going well; I've been training hard to come here, so it's a relief to pull it off. I'm stoked."
Stoked, not only to win one of the most prestigious wheel races on the Australian track cycling calendar, but also to claim the 1000 metre men's handicap, staged earlier in the day. All up a thoroughly impressive performance.
A perfect day in Tasmania's north gets the carnival rolling
Searing heat in Queensland, snow in Victoria – What the heck? Across Bass Strait on Australia's Apple Isle of Tasmania, the weather gods cooperated with a blissfully perfect day (albeit windy) for the start of the Christmas Carnival series.
An event steeped in history, the National Grid Christmas Carnivals bring together the sports of track cycling, foot racing and wood chopping in a time honoured tradition dating back more than a century.
Playing host to the opening two days of the carnival, the picturesque Latrobe Sports Ground and its retro-style outdoor racetrack.
Lining up in Latrobe were a smattering of present, past and future stars of Australian track cycling – the race fields headlined by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ben Kersten.
Scratch markers struggle
With the scratch markers struggling during the six heats of the Latrobe Wheelrace, largely due to the blustery conditions, the assignment was always going to be incredibly difficult for the big name riders come the 3000 metre handicap final. Ben Kersten, Nathan Clarke, Leigh Howard and Cameron Meyer faced the unenviable task of chasing from at or near the back of the field, Meyer, the triple World Junior Champion, was among the first backmarkers to fade from contention.
Off scratch, Kersten made a spirited attempt at bridging across to the leaders during the penultimate lap, but eased off the gas when the situation became hopeless. It left Veljacich, the recipient of a more generous handicap, in an ideal position to pounce during the final two hundred metres of the race.
"I was watching all the heats, so I saw a lot of the fronties were getting up, I thought there was going to be a solid bunch of us," Veljacich said. "I stepped out probably three quarters of a lap to go, went as hard as I could to hold 'em off and it worked."
Minor placings in the first major feature of the National Grid Tasmanian Track Carnivals went to two Bendigo products in Josh Gundry and Tim Hucker.
"I had a couple of blokes in front of me, I just used them up, sort of worked out good for me," Gundry said post race. "It was a fair bit of a gap to the winners bunch, I had to take a few risks and it sort of paid off".
Remorseful Jobie Seeks a shot at redemption
Prior to the running of the famous wheelrace, the talk of the town in Latrobe wasn't Ben Kersten, or even the constantly over-achieving Western Australians. The word on everyone's lips was Jobie Dajka – one of the most controversial figures in the recent history of Australian Cycling, who chose Tasmania to launch his comeback from a lengthy suspension for lying to a drugs inquiry and assaulting the national track coach.
Granted a new license just days ago by Cycling Australia, the prodigiously talented but often deeply troubled sprinter spoke openly with Cyclingnews about his return to the sport – and the desire to turn his life around.
"I've shown on many occasions that I can ride a bike, it's just about I suppose staying off the booze and being good and doing the right things," Dajka said. "I'm 100 per cent confident that I'm going to be able to do that no problems it's just going to take time for the people that have seen me mess up too many times in the past couple of years to come around.
"We've got time and just hopefully sooner rather than later than everything comes back together."
Dajka was eliminated during the heats of the Latrobe Wheelrace, but hopes to feature later in the week at the Christmas Carnivals in his pet sprint events. For now, it's just about being back on the bike
"It was tough, to tell you the truth, but look it's a beautiful day and I've got a smile on my face no matter what the results are," Dajka said. "I've got a lot of hard work to do but I'm looking forward to the challenge." (watch out for the Cyclingnews feature on Jobie Dajka in coming days.)
Word champion juniors shine as Hanson wins scratch race
The final event on day one of the Christmas Carnivals program featured a stellar field in the A Grade Men's Invitational Scratch Race and it was no surprise to see a bold move featuring two of Australia's World Champion Juniors. Jack Bobridge and Leigh Howard featured in a four-man escape, which also contained Glenn O'Shea and another proven performer at the Tasmanian Track Carnivals, Adrian Hanson.
With the four riders working together effectively, and the chase group not especially well organised, the escapees found themselves together on the last lap, where Hanson produced the superior sprint.
"Good to start off the week very good, A grade scratch race I wasn't expecting," Hanson admitted. "Good to be out with the other strong riders. Last year I got the first handicap of the carnival, looking like Latrobe's good luck for me."
Sarah's Christmas cure
Day one of the National Grid Christmas Carnivals produced one interesting statistic, with the revelation it was the first time in a quarter of a century that a Tasmanian had not featured on the podium of the Latrobe Wheelrace.
Still, there was some consolation in the Women's Wheelrace, where Tasmanian local Sarah Cure upstaged her more fancied rivals.
The 15 year-old from the Mersey Valley Devonport Club, whose sister Amy is also a junior champion on the track and road, produced a sudden burst of speed from second wheel on the final turn and brought it home with a solid sprint.
"I was out there, I felt pretty good and it was like, well, I might go for it," Sarah told Cyclingnews. "I was second wheel and then I decided to go and it got me home."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com
Patrick Latrobe Wheelrace – 3000 Metre Handicap 1 Jayden Veljacich 3.40.83 2 Josh Gundry 3 Tim Hucker 4 Tim Walker 5 Ben Grenda 6 Clay Murfett Under 13 Wheel Race 1 Lauren Perry 2 Braydon Bennett 3 Drew Redman Under 15 Wheel Race 1 Jackson Law 2 Mitchell Benson 3 Izac Guest Under 17 Wheel Race 1 Brody Baker 2 Ryan Gates 3 Jason Bounday Women's 1000 Metre 1 Kirsty broun 2 Emma Heynes 3 Michaela Anderson Event 21:Men's Handicap 1000 metres heat 1 1 Neil Skippers 1.05.46 2 Grant Law 3 Joel Stewart Event 22: Men's Handicap 1000 Metres Heat 2 1 Scott Sunderland 1.05.93 2 Clay Murfett 3 John Forrest Event 23: Men's 1000 Metre Handicap Heat 3 1 Matthew Kent 2 Carlo Barendilla 3 Alex Benson Event 24: Men's Handicap 1000 Metres Heat 4 1 John Rayner 2 Ben Laskey 3 Marc Prutton Event 25: Men's Handicap 1000 Metres Heat 5 1 Jayden Veljacich 1.04.70 2 Duane Johannson 3 James Schneider Event 26: Men's 1000 Metre Handicap Heat 6 1 Tim Hucker 1.04.33 2 Adrian Hanson 3 Daniel Vogels Event 27: Women's Wheelrace – Heat 1 1 Myfanwy Galloway 2.35.60 2 Bronwen Watson 3 Keira Hernandez Event 28: Women's Wheelrace – Heat 2 1 Bethany Coleman 2.33.20 2 Belinda Mason 3 Harriet Kossman Men's 1000 Metre Handicap Final 1 Jayden Veljacich 1.03.85 2 Matthew Kent 3 Joel Stewart 4 Marc Prutton Junior Under 13 3 Lap Scratch Race 1 Andrew Hinkley 2.14.18 2 Drew Redman 3 William McDonagh Junior Under 15 Scratch Race- 6 Laps 1 Jackson Law 4.20.45 2 Mitchell Benson 3 Jacob Fielding Patrick Latrobe Wheelrace – Heat 1 1 Matthew Kent 3.35.70 2 Duane Johannson 3 Grant Law 4 Justin Tomlinson Patrick Latrobe Wheelrace – Heat 2 1 Tim Walker 3.31.92 2 Clay Murfett 3 Alistair Loutit 4 Steve Martini Patrick Latrobe Wheelrace – Heat 3 1 Josh Gundry 3.29.20 2 Marc Prutton 3 Peter Walker 4 Toby Dite Patrick Latrobe Wheelrace – Heat 4 1 David Oliver 3.30.31 2 Daniel Jamieson 3 Nathan Clarke 4 Cameron Meyer Patrick Latrobe Wheelrace – Heat 5 1 Jayden Veljacich 3.34.15 2 Nick Sanderson 3 Ben Kersten 4 Evan Oliphant Patrick Latrobe Wheelrace – Heat 6 1 Ben Grenda 3.30.23 2 Andrew Dolan 3 Tim Hucker 4 Darren Rogers Women's Wheelrace Final – 200 Metres 1 Sarah Cure 2.28.26 2 Bronwen Watson 3 Harriet Kossman 4 Thomay Michaltsis E Grade Men's Scratch Race - 5000 metres 1 Grant Law 7.02.80 2 Anthony O'Connor 3 Gil Carver D Grade Men's Scratch Race - 5000 metres 1 Toby Dite 6.23.35 2 Colin Barnes 3 Andrew Dolan C Grade Men's Scratch Race - 5000 metres 1 Tim Walker 6.09.17 2 Clay Murfett 3 John Forrest B Grade Men's Scratch Race - 5000 metres 1 Duane Johannson 2 John Rayner 3 Will Robinson A Grade Men's Scratch Race - 8000 metres 1 Adrian Hanson 2 Jack Bobridge 3 Glenn O'Shea 4 Leigh Howard