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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."
Launceston Local Wins A.J. Clarke Wheelrace
Launceston local Tom Robinson celebrated one of his best career wins, taking line honours in the feature event, the A.J.Clarke & Sons Wheelrace, on day two of the Latrobe Track Carnival. In the end it was a perfectly judged sprint from Robinson which brought the result, coming off the wheel of in-form Victorian Adrian Hanson at precisely the right moment, to win the dash to the line.
"Wasn't expecting it at all actually; it just came out of the blue, I just really wanted to get into the final," Robinson said. "Two laps to go it was ideal positioning, second wheel coming into the bell and yeah I just had to step out at the right time and away we go; the legs felt good."
Yesterday, carnival organizers were lamenting the fact a local Tasmanian hadn't finished on the podium of the feature event at Latrobe for the first time in a quarter of a century.
Today, they were celebrating a homespun champion who took advantage of a generous handicap of eighty metres. Robinson started the final alongside one of the in-form riders of the carnival so far in Adrian Hanson, who would have been at short odds with any bookie 'in the know' to make the trifecta.
"It was always going to be hard for them guys [the backmarker]]," Robinson said. "I was off eighty metres, was a good mark, a good group of riders [including Hanson] there.
Hanson, who won the same event last year, was always confident going into today's wheel race final but fell short of his ultimate goal of winning the event back to back.
"That was the plan, almost the double, it would be good to match [Steven] Pate's record," Hanson said. "We had three of us starting off eighty and there were two guys behind so we knew that group would work well, we definitely thought we were a podium chance."
It turned out to be another tough day out for the backmarkers. Scratchman, junior world champion Leigh Howard, hit the afterburners at the start and latched onto the front markers before the tank hit empty midway through the 2000 metre final.
Western Australia's junior world champion Cameron Meyer suffered a similar fate, probably not helped by his brother Travis, who drove at the front of the race for longer than anyone thought possible.
"I thought he [Travis Meyer] was going to drop everyone and go solo," second place getter Adrian Hanson told Cyclingnews. "Big open track, you need to find the right wheel, Tommy [Robinson] was sitting on mine."
Tom Robinson was happy to get away with a victory of over the Meyer brothers, Howard and co. The Launceston seventeen year old, showing his competitive streak.
"Oh yeah, those guys, I've always been trying to hunt down because they're about my age," Robinson said. "To be able to race those guys, its good to see if I can compete with them. To be close and competitive with them is a dream."
The ultimate thankless job handicapper cops a roasting
When Cyclingnews caught up with the leading scratchman at the carnival, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ben Kersten, he was less than enthused with the handicapper at Latrobe. Kersten failed to make the final of the A.J.Clarke & Sons wheelrace and was in good company during his heat with one of Tasmania's leading scratchmen, Darren Young.
Returning to full-scale racing for the first time since undergoing surgery on a spinal disk problem, Kersten had made his goals for the Tasmanian Track Carnivals very clear. A wheel race victory in Latrobe or Launceston.
"I'd like to put my ten speed cassette in a footy sock and flog him [the handicapper] with it, he hasn't been helping us much," Kersten said jokingly. "Even if we had five guys [off scratch] I don't think it would have helped, we were going pretty fast, I had my ninety six [gear] spun out sitting on the back there.
"It's upsetting, I hate racing here when your form's good and you're doing everything right and you're not doing anything, a bit frustrating, I'm running out of time."
Some consolation for Kersten
Proving a point perhaps, Kersten finally broke through for a Christmas Carnival victory in the final of the invitation men's keirin. It was a commanding performance from Kersten, who was forced onto the front, to lead out the sprint in the finishing straight. Western Australian Scott Sunderland kicked, but Kersten was equal to the task, driving everyone off his wheel.
"I really didn't want to be on the front that early, it's really windy and really hard there," Kersten said.
"The move went with about 200 to go, and I didn't want to be crossing the line wishing I'd gone with that move so, you've gotta do what you've gotta do."
Today's Keirin also marked a return to sprint racing for Jobie Dajka a former world champion in the keirin event. Dajka finished fourth in his heat, lacking a finishing kick, but showing signs of the form that carried him to the top of the sport.
Junior pursuit champions impress
Day two of the Latrobe Track Carnival also provided an opportunity for the stars of Australia's 2006 Junior World Pursuit Championship to shine. Triple world junior champion Cameron Meyer produced the ride of the carnival so far, lapping the field in the men's 16000 metre scratch race.
It was a dominant performance from the Western Australian, who, without the constraints of the wheelrace handicapping system, launched an early attack with American Jame Carney. Carney's tank ran out of gasoline with twenty laps to go. Meyer eventually catching onto the group, eleven laps out from the finish.
"Yeah it's been alright, I made the Latrobe Wheel [final] which I was happy with and I made A.J.Clarke [final] as well," Meyer said.
"Scratchies aren't going too well this year. For me to make both of them and I think I'm the only one [scratch marker] that's made both with Leigh [Howard] so it shows I've got a bit of form."
South Australian Jack Bobridge showed his wares in the invitation elimination race; executing a long distance breakaway which carried him to victory. There were shades of Belgium 2006, with the breakaway originally containing Bobridge's world championship team-mates Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard. Bobridge is using the Tasmanian Track Carnival to prepare for the 2007 Australian track championships, where he hopes to qualify for the world championships in Mexico.
"I've been doing a lot of training getting ready for the track nationals in early February," Bobridge said. "Just been doing a little bit of track work, getting a base up. Then I got to Bay Crits for a bit of specialized racing."
Lightning Liz gets controversial result
Home might be the North Island and the bulk of her racing on the West Island, but it was on the south-west Island of Tasmania where kiwi sprint ace Liz Williams hit form today. One of the favourites going into the women's lightning 1000 metre handicap, the Commonwealth Games sprinter was awarded a controversial win by the judges.
At first glance, the run down the finishing straight appeared to result in a perfectly executed lunge across the line by Queenslander Kirsty Bruin, who surprised Williams in the last few metres. The race media contingent, though, was surprised to find judges awarding the result in Williams' favour.
"I didn't know where she was, I had no idea," Williams admitted of the surprise attack from Bruin. "Happy about the coin, that will help with the flight. Every year I've been here they've put me on scratch, so, they just put me forward ten metres at the last minute and I went thanks."
Had the judges decided to conduct a post-mortem on the race result, Williams might just have been the person to help. A masters student in forensic science, Williams is taking a major turn with her cycling career - from track sprinting to track endurance and criterium racing. Trimming down her muscly track racer frame and spending long hours in the saddle to accommodate the demands of her new discipline, Williams made the perfect start by claiming her second victory for the day in the women's scratch race.
The event had to be re-started when Karissa Ling crashed on the bell lap. Williams produced a double kick on the final lap, with no-one able to match the New Zealander's well documented sprinting ability.
Williams will be one of the riders expected to feature when the Tasmanian Christmas Track Carnival Series heads to Launceston's indoor velodrome tomorrow.
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 Junior Under 13 1000 Metres Handicap 1 Nathan Hinkley 1.29.01 2 Drew Redman 3 Braydon Bennett Junior Under 15 1000 Metres Handicap 1 Jackson Law 1.15.40 2 Mitchell Benson 3 Scott Bransden Junior Under 17 1000 Metres Handicap First Heat 1 Luke Ockerby 1.11.47 2 Ryan Gates 3 Scott Law Junior Under 17 1000 Metres Handicap Second heat 1 Brett Campbell 1.13.33 2 Tim Taylor 3 Alex Tomlinson Junior Under 17 1000 Metres Handicap Final 1 Scott Law 1.10.37 2 Andrew Smith 3 Alex Carver 4 Luke Ockerby Women's Lightning 1000 Metre Handicap First Heat 1 Kirsty Brown 1.14.06 2 Liz Williams 3 Jennifer Loutit 4 Emma Heynes Women's Lightning 1000 Metre Handicap Second Heat 1 Laura McCaughey 1.16.60 2 Michaela Anderson 3 Sky-Lee Armstrong 4 Kate De Paoli Women's Lightning 1000 Metre Handicap Third Heat 1 Thomay Michaltsis 1.14.40 2 Myfanwy Galloway 3 Sarah Cure 4 Chloe Hosking 5 Belinda Goss A.J Clarke & Sons Wheelrace 2000 Metres First Heat 1 Andrew Dolan 2.16.57 2 Adrian Hanson 3 Aaron Jones 4 Jarrod Harman A.J Clarke & Sons Wheelrace 2000 Metres Second Heat 1 Travis Meyer 2.19.50 2 Clay Murfett 3 Carlo Barendilla 4 Sean Pontelandolfo A.J Clarke & Sons Wheelrace 2000 Metres Third Heat 1 Jack Bobridge 2.17.42 2 Jason Johnson 3 Duane Johannson 4 Jason Bellchambers A.J Clarke & Sons Wheelrace 2000 Metres Fourth Heat 1 Joel Stewart 2.20.41 2 Tim Hucker 3 Kaiden Homan 4 Steve Martini A.J Clarke & Sons Wheelrace 2000 Metres Fifth Heat 1 Matthew Kent 2.18.65 2 Alistair Loutit 3 Tom Robinson 4 Paul Atkinson A.J Clarke & Sons Wheelrace 2000 Metres Sixth Heat 1 Cameron Meyer 2.20.43 2 Leigh Howard 3 Glenn O'Shea 4 Alexander James Under 13 Scratch Race 3 Laps 1 Nathan Hinkley 2.18.23 2 Drew Redman 3 Lauren Perry Under 15 Scratch Race 6 Laps 1 Jackson Law 4.34.71 2 Mitchell Benson 3 Scott Carver Under 17 Scratch Race B Grade 1 Brett Campbell 7.44.35 2 Brandon Stewart 3 Ryan Gates A.J.Clarke & Sons Wheel Race 2000 Metres 1 Tom Robinson 2.13.76 2 Adrian Hanson 3 Clay Murfett 4 Glenn O'Shea Men's Invitation Keirin First Heat 1 Joel Leonard 2 Benn Kersten 3 Nathan Clarke 4 Evan Oliphant Men's Invitation Keirin Second Heat 1 Kial Stewart 2 Scott Sunderland 3 Adrain Hanson 4 Jobie Dajka Women's Lightning 1000 Metre Handicap 1 Liz Williams 1.14.10 2 Kirsty Broun 3 Erica Heynes 4 Amy Cure E Grade Scratch Race 5000 Metres 1 Grant Law 6.46.78 2 Neil Skippers 3 Troy Sait 4 Anthony O'Connor D Grade Scratch Race 5000 metres 1 Steve Martini 2 Matthew Kent 3 Andrew Dolan 4 Marc Prutton Invitation Men's Keirin Final 1 Ben Kersten 2 Scott Sunderland 3 Joel Leonard 4 Adrian Hanson 5 Kial Stewart C Grade Men's Scratch Race 1 John Forrest 6.04.75 2 Clay Murfett 3 Jamie Perry 4 Ben Laskey Women's A Grade Scratch Race 3000 Metres 1 Liz Williams 3.43.55 2 Belinda Goss 3 Laura McCaughey 4 Kirsty Broun Women's B Grade Scratch Race 3000 Metres 1 Myfanwy Galloway 4.23.99 2 Harriet Kossman 3 Bethany Coleman Devon Industries Elimination Race 1 Jack Bobridge 2 Leigh Howard 3 Jamie Carney 4 Nick Sanderson B Grade Scratch Racce 5000 Metres 1 Jamie Crass 5.54.10 2 S.Kline 3 Carlo Barendilla 4 Justin Tomlinson Men's A Grade Scratch Race 16000 Metres 1 Cameron Meyer 2 Nathan Clarke 3 Evan Oliphant