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Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals
Tasmania, December 20, 2008 - January 17, 2009
Hobart Carnival - January 4, 2008
Clarke not finished yet
By Rod Morris in Hobart, Australia
Latrobe-based scratchman Nathan Clarke has shown he is a long way from being a 'former champion', or a veteran in the twilight of his career. The 30-year-old Tasmanian won his second Hobart Wheelrace on Sunday, after overpowering a strong group of talented midfielders.
Clarke first won the Hobart Wheel in 2001 and has also ridden to two second placings (1998 and 2008). Admittedly, the opening field was not as strong as the recently-completed Christmas week of the Tasmanian Carnivals, but Clarke still had a lot of ground to make up in the 2000m final.
Joining him on the elite scratch mark was strong Victorian rider Todd Wilksch and fellow Tasmanian Stephen Rossendell - a dual Hobart Wheel champion who went into the race as defending champion.
But the trio were forced to chase down 240m to the frontmarkers, Scott Miller and Jamie Smith. The big dangers, however, came around the middle of the field, where Will Robinson, John Rayner, Andrew Dolan and Hamish Wright looked extremely dangerous.
But a well-organised performance from Clarke, Wilksch and Rossendell, and the trio immediately in front of them in the final, Kam Po Wong (40m), Tom Robinson (50m) and King Wai Cheung (60m), saw the backies up in plenty of time and with room to manoeuvre for the sprint to the line.
Clarke, who has a renowned strong sprint proved far too strong for Dolan and Tom Robinson for the lunge to get to the top step of the podium, while Rossendell hung in for fourth place.
Wilksch and Rossendell scored the quinella in the A grade scratch, while Wilksch surprised Clarke in the A grade elimination race. And Wilksch grabbed a trifecta of wins when he also took out the Derby final.
Malaysian rider Wan Yiu Wong was rewarded for her consistency throughout the carnivals with victory in the womens Hobart Wheelrace, beating home fellow international Xiao Juan Diao and Tasmanian Emma Smith, who earlier in the carnivals had won the womens Latrobe Wheel.
Janelle Smith captured the A grade scratch lightning handicap double, while junior wheelrace winners included Jordan Matthews (Under 17), Alex Allison (Under 15) and Mitchell Darko (Under 13).
Nathan Clarke has an enviable record in Tasmanian Carnivals history. He has a string of minor placings in other major wheelraces and has ridden from scratch in Tasmania every year since 1996 - a record in itself. At national level he has won junior pursuit championships and four years ago was a member of the Tasmanian 4000m pursuit team which claimed the Australian title.
In more recent times he has focused on road racing, joined the improving Praties Cycling Team in 2008, where he went on to win two stages of the Scody Cup; one in the Tour of Gippsland and one in the Tour of the Murray River.
To suggest at age 30 - he turns 31 next month - that he is in the twilight of his career could be fraught with danger.
In the recent Christmas week of the Tasmanian Carnivals, Clarke may have been overshadowed by some of the performances of Victorian Glen OShea, but Clarke was a regular wheelrace finalist and at Burnie on New Years Day snatched victory in the 16,000m A grade scratch.
The 1000m lightning handicap saw victory go to veteran Justin McMullen ahead of Darrel Galpin and Roy Martin.
Only one carnival remains on the Tasmanian calendar for the 2008-09 season, with the St Helens Athletic Club hoping for a change of luck from what it has received recently.
Last January (2008) the St Helens Carnival was washed out and then the re-scheduled meeting last November was also affected by weather. The 2009 St Helens Carnival is programmed for January 17.
Men Lightning Handicap 1 Justin Mcmullen 2 Darrel Galpin 3 Roy Martin 4 Tom Watt 2000M Wheelrace 1 Nathan Clarke (Scratch) 2 Andrew Dolan (90m) 3 Tom Robinson (50m) 4 Steve Rossendell (Scratch) A Grade Scratch 1 Todd Wilsch 2 Steve Rossendell 3 Kam Po Wong B Grade Scratch 1 Justin Mcmullen 2 Joel Stearnes 3 Brett Campbell A Grade Miss & Out 1 Todd Wilsch 2 Nathan Clarke 3 Tom Robinson B Grade Miss & Out 1 Justin Mcmullen 2 Joel Stearnes 3 Brett Campbell Keiren 1 Todd Wilsch 2 Nathan Clarke 3 Steve Rossendell Derby 1 Todd Wilsch 2 Hamish Wright 3 Steve Rossendell 4 Nathan Clarke Points Score 1 Nathan Clarke 11 pts 2 Gang Xu 6 3 Andrew Dolan 6 C Grade Scratch 1 Darrel Galpin 2 Jamie Smith 3 Dean Benedetti Women 2000m Wheelrace 1 Wan Yiu Wong 2 Xiao Juan Diao 3 Emma Smith 4 Janelle Smith Lightning Handicap 1 Janelle Smith 2 Emma Lawson 3 Wan Yiu Wong 4 Kiera Hernandez A Grade Scratch 1 Janelle Smith 2 Harriet Kossman 3 Xiao Juan Diao B Grade Scratch 1 Emma Lawson 2 Teagann Munro 3 Kiera Hernandez Miss & Out 1 Harriet Kossman 2 Janelle Smith 3 Emma Smith