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Nationalgrid Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals, January 1, 2007
Americans taste Tassie
By John Michael Flynn at Burnie
The week-long Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals haven't just attracted the top Australian talent - a small but dedicated trio of Americans have also made the journey to the land down under to contest the historic series.
Multiple US Champion Jame Carney is already part of the event's rich tapestry and is back at the Tassie Carnivals for the ninth time. This time 'round, Carney has brought wth him two talented young Americans in Under 23 National Women's Criterium Champion Erica Allar and Junior Track Champion Shane Kline.
Carney admits to falling in love with the local cycling culture and even harbours a dream of one day living in Tasmania - dividing his time between here and the United States.
"There are so many cycling supporters here in Tasmania it's crazy," Carney said. "Everybody loves cycling."
Carney has been below his best during the Christmas Carnivals - he returns to the US for surgery next month to correct herniated disks in his back. But that hasn't stopped the master race tactician from featuring in a variety of events from Derbys to Keirens to wheel and scratch races.
Carney was particularly impressive on the boards at Launceston, where he insisted his young charges watch every race, to learn the nuances of the track.
"In America no-one knows what to do," Carney said. "When I attacked in that Derby (which he won) people just think I just attacked. The thing is, we went up to the wall, the higher the track, the more distance you're going, the perfect place to attack.
"That's what I'm trying to teach them, you've gotta learn to attack."
Carney, who has raced all over the globe for the best part of a lifetime, continues to be impressed with the standard of racing in Tasmania at grass roots level.
The Christmas Carnival Series, in which riders compete on indoor and outdoor tracks in a variety of conditions, provides an ideal teaching environment.
"The racing here, D graders race smart," Carney said. "I'm coming down on them (Kline and Allar) really hard for not watching every race."
A steep learning curve
So far, for Erica Allar and Shane Kline the learning curve has been steep. Allar, the 2006 rider of the year at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, picked up a podium placing in yesterday's Burnie Criterium. But her results on the track here in Tasmania, have been modest at best.
"Yeah it is amazing, it's my first time out of the United States for racing," Allar said. "I've been able to really commit myself. The racing's awesome, it's a great learning experience. Hopefully I'll get a lot out of it."
Kline, who finished fifth in the scratch race at last year's junior world championships, has taken advantage of the opportunity to race against the best of the best - including the world champion Meyer brothers, Leigh Howard and Jack Bobridge.
"Just to get the experience of racing with the best in the world, the carnivals just really teach you how to race," Kline said. "This kind of racing you don't get in America and I realise, yes, it's tough."
Kline has shown improvement throughout the Christmas Carnival series, including a heat victory at the Latrobe carnival, but has otherwise been out of the money - so far.
"Racing here you can't wait around, like everything's just fast and it happens right away," an enthusiastic Kline told Cyclingnews. "You have to feel everything coming, be a lot more aware of what's going to happen."
How good are the young Aussies?
Jame Carney is probably one of the best judges to ask, when considering Australia's emerging riches in the world of track cycling. He's seen first hand the strength of the Meyer brothers and also believes Victorian Leigh Howard is on the improve.
"They're just so tough (the Meyer brothers)and they're aggressive, they attack from the gun almost every race, they make the racing really hard," Carney said. "Cameron, Travis, they're going to be superstars, same thing with Leigh Howard."
The secret of Bennie's success
Everyone at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals has been enquiring as to the secret of Ben Kersten's success and Cyclingnews has found the answer.
On his regular Christmas sojourn to Tassie, Kersten hangs out with the team from Krusty's Bakery in the town of Ulverstone. The cycling-mad mob travel with Kersten to all the races, and provide the Commonwealth Champion with food, shelter and mechanical support.
"Crustys has been feeding Ben for the last three years, he's taken the kids under his wing and given 'em a few tips," Crusty's David Walker said. "Ben's their mentor, he comes down every Christmas for a couple of weeks."
The tips must be paying off - the riders Kersten has taken under his wing include, among others, Tasmania's Cure sisters, who are fast emerging through the junior ranks.