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Wangaratta Track Cycling Carnival
March 22, 2003
By Barry McNaught
The Victorian Bushfires in January forced postponement of the annual Wangaratta Sports Carnival, scheduled for the Australia Day weekend. A day combining Athletics, Woodchopping and Cycling, the Carnival features one of the oldest Wheelraces on the Track Cycling calendar.
First won in 1926 by W.A.King, the event has gone to Champions of the sport - Sid Patterson 1954 + '65; Barry Waddell '71; Gordon Johnson '72; Danny Clarke '86 and Baden Cooke 2000.
This year, at the suggestion of retiring Cycle Sport Victoria Handicapper Laurie Norris, the top 10 riders raced an omnium series. This provided exciting and spectacular racing. New speedster on the block, Damien Keirl (Ballarat/Sebastopol) won the Derby from Daniel Thorson (Shepparton), Todd Wilksch (Horsham) and Scott Moller (Footscray).
The stamina and strength of Robert Wilson saw him spreadeagle the field in the Elimination. 2nd placed Todd Wilksch half a lap down. Tim Decker and Leigh Egan were 3rd and 4th. Into the final round, 3 riders shared the lead on 5 points - Wilson, Keirl and Wilksch. Shepparton's brilliant youngster Thorsen was on 3 points and Decker 2.
Riders required thin pushers for the 10 across the track start to the deciding Keirin. Giant rider Egan grabbed the pacer before surrendering to Decker. As the motorbike left them Shepparton's Brad Norton hit the front. Keirl threatened out wide, as Egan challenged Norton, with Thorsen queueing to attack. But they were all blown away by the blistering sprint of Todd Wilksch, to take the Keirin and the Omnium.
The first round of the 2,000 metres Wangaratta Wheelrace heats went to in form Coburg rider Carl Cubitt (170); Wangaratta's Robert Sullivan (200); Shepparton youngster Michael Hill (110); Carnegie-Caulfield's Ian Smith (160).
In the 2nd round of heats, after the tea break, Carnegie-Caulfield Club dominated with wins to their Secretary Malcolm Sawford (160) and veteran Michael Goldie (230). An interesting aside - Goldie's son Tim won the Athletic's feature event the Wangaratta Gift in 1994. The 24 riders were introduced for the final with 1st place receivin $1500, sash and trophy thru to $100 for 6th and all unplaced finalists $20.
The expected battle developed between the middle markers and the backmarkers. Joel Leonard (30) took the backmen around the field soon after the bell, with backmarkers Wilson (20) + Wilksch (20) still on his wheel. But others were eager to join in the fray!
As Wilson forged to the front soon after the 200m mark, Wilksch lost his wheel and was pocketed with others going around. Wilson looked the winner 20m from the line, but '97 winner Aaron Salisbury (110) grabbed him. Then Wilksch who had escaped from the pocket on the run in, sprinted brilliantly down the outside to claim victory. Todd Wilksch from Horsham burst on the scene in '94 as a 16 year old, to take the under 17 years 1000m Australian Time Trial Championship. That season he also won 3 Wheelraces in the Victorian Christmas series, then took the Melb Cup on Wheels in '95.
He capped off the day by winning the Best performed Senior rider and received the Australia Day Committee's perpetual Cup. The Sid Patterson Memorial Aces Scratch Race went to Robert Wilson, outsprinting his 3 co breakaways, Brad Norton, Leigh Egan and Sean Finning.
Anthony Rix, a younger brother of last year's Wheelrace winner Andrew, took the 3 under 17 years events. For his efforts he took the Cup for the Best Performed Junior rider.
Keirin and Omnium 1 Todd Wilksch 10 pts 2 Daniel Thorsen 6 3 Damien Keirl 5 4 Robert Wilson 5 Wangaratta Wheelrace 1 Todd Wilksch 2.12.84 2 Aaron Salisbury 3 Robert Wilson 4 Carl Cubett 5 Craig Metcalf 6 Malcolm Sawford