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3rd Gunn's Launceston International Classic - NE

Tasmania, Australia, December 27, 2004

Sprint showdown in Launceston

McEwen goes one better in 2003
Photo: © Shane Goss
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Australia's top three road sprinters will vie for a victory in the 2004 Launceston International Criterium, known this year as the Gunns Cycling Classic. Robbie McEwen (winner in 2003), Stuart O'Grady, and rising star Allan Davis will all line up on the evening of December 27 for a race that has quickly become a major fixture on Tasmania's cycling calendar.

The 2004 course is changed from last year with a straighter finish. In 2003 Robbie McEwen was able to exploit his bike-handling skills to take the win by diving through the final bend - this year's straighter finish will make things harder for McEwen, who will also be a marked man after his victory last year.

The Launceston Classic:
How two local riders brought their dream to life

By Gerard Knapp in Launceston

"Hey Stan, waddya reckon we get Robbie, Stuey and the lads in for a big crit in the middle of town ..."

Earlier this year (2002), two local Launceston riders were out on a ride and the talk turned invariably to pro racing and 'wouldn't it be good to get a whole bunch of pros here for a crit around the town, and recreate the atmosphere of a European race right in the middle of town?'

Of course, such talk is cheap and quite often plentiful. But the city of Launceston, like all of Tasmania, has a proud cycling heritage. The whole state is cycling friendly: cyclists out commuting or on training rides are treated with respect and courtesy by other road users. The local townsfolk have great pride in their attractive small city. Read more.

This story won the 2003 Cycling Australia Print Media award.

The race looked in danger of cancellation earlier this year as organizers and city council were unable to agree but local businesses rallied round to support the event including Tasmanian forestry company Gunns. Organiser Tom Sawyer told Cyclingnews that a consortium of middle-sized local businesses had also come forward to support the race. "As soon as people heard that Gunns were in, I had truck companies and building companies coming forward to help," said Sawyer.

Cordial relations have also been restored with Launceston City Council, says Sawyer. A failure to agree on terms for the race organisation meant that the council withdrew $20,000 in funding from the race last week. That money will now come from other sources, but the council has agreed to help with granting road access and assisting with set-up of the event.

A further $20,000 toward running the event was pledged some weeks ago by the Tasmanian state government, and that assistance has never been in doubt, says Sawyer. In fact, instead of the politic bickering that often accompanies government money being spent on something as frivolous as a bike race, "both side of politics are very much in favour of the race and think it's a great thing for the state," said Sawyer.

Click here for full results and reports from the 2003 race.