Ho, ho, ho… the Christmas Carnivals are almost here!

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Racing
Tags: ,

At the heart of each track season is the Christmas Carnivals.  In Tassie, they’ve been going for 120-years and for much of that time they represented the pinnacle of track cycling in terms of depth of fields and value of prize money.  Victoria and NSW also have their carnivals, all of which offer great racing for junior cyclists.

In many respects the Chrissy Carnivals are the antithesis of the National Junior Track Series (NJTS), which is held on the five indoor velodromes around Australia.  The Carnivals are generally held on regional outdoor tracks and mix junior and senior racing along with running and wood-chopping (yes, the axe men take centre stage during the carnival as well).  There are hot dog trucks, rides and jumping castles for the little kids and even musical entertainment at some.

IMO, the Tassie Carnivals offer a terrific experience for junior mainland riders.  It’s definitely worth the trip, but if you’re just going for the racing be prepared for five long-days (with a day’s break for NY eve).  Latrobe and Lonny offer good junior programs.  For the past couple of years Latrobe has offered two junior races early in the program – a scratch race and a wheel race (there’s qualifying for under-17s but straight finals for the under-13s and under-15s).  I’d love to see a third race on the program for the younger riders.  Perhaps they could offer an early handicap for the under-13/15s, in lieu of under-17 heats, and then the wheel race final about an hour into the program.  This would give the junior handicapper the opportunity to ‘tweak’ the marks as this is the first carnival and he won’t have seen a lot of the mainland riders.  Three races also makes the trip more worthwhile.

The Latrobe track and old grand stands – lots of history here!

Launceston is next up, held in the Silverdome, the first indoor velodrome built in Australia, in 1984.  The place really rocks with a full house for the evening session.  For the juniors, they get three races during the afternoon and then have their wheelrace final as part of the main evening program.  Prize money is good and while the races are just two scratchies and two handicaps (rather than mixing it up a bit), at least they’re getting four races.  They also get to share the pits with big names.  Over recent years the likes of Shane Perkins, Glenn O’Shea and Matt Goss have raced there along with a steady stream of international six-day racers.

A crash in a junior wheelrace final at Launceston last year made for a spectacular finish!

The next two days are the Devonport Carnival.  My recommendation would be if you want to take a bit of holiday, skip Devonport and look around, as it doesn’t cater very well to the juniors.  Each day offers only two junior races with a huge gap between them.  It’s a shame, because they have the opportunity to really offer good junior racing, but the organisers seem to take the previous years program and repeat it – something they’ve been doing for probably 100-years!

After a break for New Year’s eve, it all climaxes at Burnie.  A terrific seaside track where the wind usually plays a part.  Traditionally there are three junior races here – one scratch race, a 2-lap handicap and a 3-lap wheel race.  There is an extra qualifying heat for the under-17s again. While there is some gap between the races, it has the best ‘carnival’ atmosphere of the series with lots of food options and rides.  There’s also plenty of good senior racing to keep you entertained.

Racing by the sea! The wind definitely effects the shorter handicaps, its especially hard for the back-markers who must start into the prevailing wind.

If you are heading down, Launceston is a good place to base yourself – while not as central as Devonport or Ulverstone it’s a bigger city with more on offer; and make sure you bring your roadie as there are rides that leave the church carpark in Margaret St (betweek York & fredrick Sts) at 6am, 7am and 8am for a ride down the scenic West Tamar and Rosevears and everybody’s welcome!

In fact, Northern Tasmania arguably has the strongest cycling culture of anywhere in Australia; look at the current list of pros that stem from those parts: Matt Goss, Richie Porte, Will Clarke, the Sulzberger bothers, Cameron Wurf, Belinda Goss and Amy Cure to name a few.  Throw in emerging riders like Campbell Flakemore (although he’s from the South), Alex Clements, Ben Grenda, Lauren Perry, Macey Stewart, Peter Loft and Luke Ockerby and there must be something in the water down there.

Do yourself a favour and book your car on the boat now – with the bikes on the roof for a week to remember.  Latrobe starts on the 27th December, Launceston is on the 28th, Devonport on the 29th and 30th, then Burnie is on the 1st of January.  Check out the carnival website for a little more info and you now enter online via Cycling Tasmania.

  1. Jeff Brown says:

    If you want bikes on the car roof on the Spirit of Tasmania, bear in mind that this puts you into the “over2.1 metres” height category, which is the same price, but harder to get a booking due to competition with heavy vehicles. You might want to consider the possibility of putting the bikes inside the car while on the boat, in order to improve your booking chances. A towbar mounted rack will increase vehicle length and cost.
    Do your Spirit of Tasmania research asap. We want to see you in Tassie

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