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Tasmania, December 23, 2006 - January 20, 2007

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Launceston Carnival - December 28

Grenda wins the launceston wheelrace

By John Michael Flynn in Launceston, Australia

Local rider Ben Grenda takes out the 2006 Mercure Hotel
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

A fairytale result capped off an entertaining night of racing at the Launceston Silverdome as the offspring of one of Australian cycling's 'immortals' broke through for his first major career win.

Ben Grenda, the son of 1984 Olympic teams pursuit gold medalist Michael Grenda, and grandson of one of Australia's track cycling's greats, Ron Grenda, produced the ride of his young life to claim the Launceston Wheelrace - signaling the emergence of a third generation of talent from one of Australia's most celebrated cycling families. Organisers could not have scripted a better climax to the program at the Launceston Silverdome.

A rank underdog going into the heats of the wheelrace, 16-year-old Grenda fought tenaciously to stay in contention. He followed up his third place in the heat with a gutsy ride in the final, where, even with the benefit of a sizeable handicap, the Tasmanian held out against a pack of fast finishing backmarkers.

"Yeah I was pretty confident but I knew I had some good riders there, so I gave it my all," Grenda said."This is probably one of the biggest wins I've had so it's a great feeling. It's a great atmosphere in the silverdome."

Standing in the background as his son soaked up the well deserved accolades, the proudest of dads savoured the moment. Michael Grenda, who along with Dean woods, Michael Turter, and Kevin Nichols gave Australian track cycling a win at the Los Angeles Olympics, was without question the happiest dad at the track.

"He's just a kid, he's only sixteen, he didn't come here with any great expectations," Grenda said. "Certainly if you'd have said he's going to win the wheel tonight, he'd have thought you were joking. It's good for him, it'll give him a lift, it'll encourage him."

How the moment unfolded

Ben Kersten (right) takes out the Lightning Handicap
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

In a repeat of previous days, the backmarkers had a tough time in the heats of the 2,000m Launceston Wheelrace. Commonwealth Games kilo champion Ben Kersten struggled again, ironically in the same heat as Grenda. With Kersten off scratch and the rapidly improving Grenda off 160m, Kersten sought the help of fellow scratch marker Joel Leonard and Nick Sanderson to reach the front markers.

The effort bore no fruit. Kersten provided one of the rides of the night with his effort to bridge across the gap to the leaders, but it cost him on the finishing straight.

"Ridiculous, no backmarkers even got close to catching up, what's going on?" a disenchanted Kersten asked at race end. "We're not going slow. Oh god, I don't want to talk about it."

Junior world champions Jack Bobridge, Cameron Meyer, and Leigh Howard suffered a similar fate in their heats, while experienced scratchmen Jame Carney, Nathan Clarke, Stephen Rossendell, and Darren Young also missed out on the final.

In the final, Latrobe wheelrace winner Jayden Veljacich started as the backmarker off 50m. Grenda (160m) emerged from a pack of underdogs to blast home on the bell lap - just edging out a fast finishing Matthew McDonagh.

"That was a bit of a surprise to get up there, really a surprise to make it into the wheel final," McDonagh said. "Coming into the finishing straight, I knew there was Ben Grenda in front of me and he was going flat out on the front, he just held me."

Despite the strong family pedigree, the senior Grenda has avoided pressuring his son into pursuing a career in cycling. "I had him involved in every sport except cycling, it was something I was really concerned about, it was his choice," Michael Grenda affirmed. "He got to that age and I said it's going to be hard, you're going to have to put up with all this pressure, you're going to have to race in the rain and train in the rain and put up with all these things, but he loves it he's really passionate about it."

Kersten wins the lightning

While the Wheelrace spoils eluded him at both Latrobe and Launceston, there was some joy for Ben Kersten in the 1,000m lightning handicap final. Coming off scratch, Kersten was given some help in the speed department from Victorian Joel Leonard. The pair rode themselves onto the back of the lead group but Kersten was almost forced into the wall, when several riders swung high on the banking.

"I was very thankful for having Joel Leonard in the race," Kersten said. "Four or five guys swung out in front of us, they didn't do any work, it left Joel with a lot of work to do.

Western Australian Scott Sunderland once again showed a burst of speed in the finishing straight, edging ever closer each time to a victory against Kersten. "Yeah it was good to get on the wheel when they went flying by," Sunderland said. "To get second by whatever it was, it was great to be racing with him."

The Meyers gets points and scratch races

Travis Meyer won the Wheelrace in Launceston last year
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

Western Australia's Meyer brothers featured again with Cameron Meyer repeated yesterday's performance for his rivals in the points race. Never afraid to have a go, a trait which is becoming the Meyer brothers trademark, Meyer went up the road in the points race and quickly amassed an unassailable lead.

It was a mere tempter for the final race of the night, the scratch race, where the Meyer brothers combined to launch simultaneous attacks leaving everyone wondering where the next assault would come from.

Eventually it was Travis Meyer who with three laps to go broke away for a solo victory. He was the winer of the 2005 Launceston Wheelrace. "I came out trying to prove a point, I haven't been going to well this week," Travis Meyer said. The Western Australian who recently signed with Victoria's Drapac Porsche program, is thankful for his brother's support. "It was just good to have him (Cameron) there because of the rider that he is. He always helps me out, and I help him out."

Cure wins women's wheel

Amy Cure after emulating her younger sister Sara's win
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

As talented as the Meyer brothers are, Tasmania has its own sister act. After watching sister Sarah triumph at the Latrobe track carnival, national junior champion Amy Cure decided it was her turn to dish out the medicine in the final of the women's wheel race.

But winning the Launceston Wheel meant overcoming a quality field - with two riders in particular, Kirsty Broun and backmarker Laura McCaughey firing on all cylinders. Western Australian Sarah Kent provided several big efforts to give the backmarkers every chance of bridging across, but Cure had too much in reserve for the dash down the finishing straight.

"It was a pretty hard race, I just wanted to try and go hard and catch up to the front bunch, start working with them so the backmarkers don't catch us," Cure said as she celebrated the win. "I wanted to come out and win one of the wheel races, I won this one last year, it was pretty good to win it again this year."

McCaughey all class

Laura McCaughey from Tasmania
Photo ©: Shane Goss
(Click for larger image)

By far, the standout rider on the women's program was Tasmanian Laura McCaughey. A winner of both the women's scratch race and the lightning handicap, McCaughey's match-up with former Tasmanian (now residing in Queensland) Kirsty Broun, was one of the highlights of the evening's racing.

After narrowly missing out on a victory in Latrobe, Broun was again luckless in the final of the Lightning Handicap, despite giving herself every chance with a surprise attack two hundred metres out from the finish. "I thought I had her to be honest," Broun said of her attempt to surprise McCaughey. "Unfortunately I'm not used to competing with this kind of competition up there in Queensland. I really like mixing it down here with the girls, they're top class."

McCaughey was quick to answer Broun's challenge, well aware of the capability of this rider on the comeback."I was thinking (when Broun attacked) she's a good sprinter, I'd better get going," McCaughey said.

"She used to be a national champion, and she's doing pretty well, she's going to get back up there.

The Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals head to Devonport tomorrow, for what is traditionally one of the biggest nights of Australian track cycling.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Shane Goss/www.licoricegallery.com


Mercure Hotel Launceston – Launceston Wheelrace - Final

1 Ben Grenda
2 Matthew McDonagh
3 Colin Barnes
4 Clay Murfett
5 Adrian Hanson

Ladies Invitation Wheel Race – Final
1 Amy Cure
2 Kirsty Broun
3 Harriet kossman
4 Emma Heynes
5 Laura McCaughey

Sheps Total lawn Care Junior 1 Launceston Wheelrace – Heat 1
1 Ed Robinson
2 Sam Brett
3 Scott law
4 Alex Carver
5 Callum Docker
6 Alex Tomlinson

Sheps Total Lawn Care Junior 1 Launceston Wheelrace – Heat 2
1 Dylan King
2 Jason Bounday
3 Peter Loft
4 Peter Loft
5 David Lyons
6 Brandon Stewart

Kinnane Cycle Co Junior 3 Launceston Wheelrace – 4 Laps

1 Michael Docker                                                             1.38.36
2 Drew Redman
3 Nathan Hinckley

Cityline Windows & Doors Junior 2 Launceston Wheelrace – 7 Laps

1 Scott Carver                                                               2.32.23
2 Jake Laskey
3 Kodey West

Mercure Hotel Earlington – Launceston Wheelrace Heat 1

1 Daniel Jamieson
2 Clay Murfett
3 Carlon Barendilla

Mercure Hotel Earlington – Launceston Wheelrace heat 2

1 David Oliver
2 Shane Kline
3 Tim Walker

Mercure Hotel Earlington – Launceston Wheelrace Heat 3

1 Matthew MmcDonagh
2 Colin Barnes
3 Brendan Sait

Mercure Hotel Earlington – Launceston Wheelrace Heat 4

1 Tom Robinson
2 Jayden Veljacich
3 Adrian Hanson

Mercure Hotel Earlington Launceston Wheelrace Heat 5

1 B. Sanders                                                                 2.10.25
2 Abram Manion
3 Ben Grenda

Mercure Hotel Earlington Launceston Wheelrace Heat 6
1 Glenn O’Shea                                                               2.10.15
2 John Rayner
3 Justin Tomlinson

Sheps Total Lawn Care Junior 1 Launceston Wheelrace Final – 7 laps (2000metres)

1 Scott Law                                                                  2.21.54
2 D. Lyons
3 Luke Ockerby
4 Ed Robinson

Ladies Invitation Wheelrace – Heat 1

1 Grace Salzberger
2 Kirsty Broun
3 Janelle Smith
4 Camille Jones-Pallett
5 Monique Hanley
6 Sara Kent

Ladies Invitation Wheelrace - Heat 2

1 Amy Cure
2 Chloe Hosking
3 Emma Heynes
4 Bethany Coleman
5 Harriet kossman
6 Belinda Goss
7 Laura McCaughey