Roll up, Roll up, Roll up…

Posted: December 20, 2013 in Opinion, Racing

It’s Christmas Carnival time!  That time honoured tradition that has attracted cyclists of all persuasions for some hundred-odd years.  Tassie does it well; Victoria has seen a revival in recent years; even NSW is getting in on the action!

The mainstay of the Christmas carnivals are the rich wheel races: handicapped track events that are designed to give everyone an equal chance of victory.  These are held for juniors and seniors and often attract a high calibre of track rider.  I remember last year watching Glenn O’Shea make history by taking out all the major Tassie Wheelraces and pocket a cool $18K in the process!

Glenn O'Shea after his clean sweep of major Tassie Carnivals last year… four out of four!

Glenn O’Shea after his clean sweep of major Tassie Carnivals last year… four out of four! O’Shea returns this year along with a cast of Australian and International stars.

It’s fantastic racing watching the back-markers sweep up the front-markers in the final straight to take the win… or seeing the amazed look on the front-markers faces as they hold on for an unlikely victory.

For the juniors the carnivals offer a colourful, competitive and especially tiering experience.  In Tassie, its five out of six days racing, in Victoria its four days straight with some decent driving thrown in.  Throw in heat, flies, wind and strange beds and the experience is sure to make them stronger more resilient riders.

It is also a great experience that they race on outdoor tracks – from long flat tracks like those found in Bendigo or Burnie to steeper banked outdoor tracks like Horsham and Ballarat.  Racing styles and tactics need to vary depending on the wind, weather, marks and competition.  It is a real skill to be able to ride a handicap.

Juniors fly by in the Wheelrace final in front of a full house at Latrobe.

Juniors fly by in the Wheelrace final in front of a full house at Latrobe.

Victoria has revitalised its Christmas carnivals in recent years, especially with the juniors, by holding state title events as part of the carnival program.  This has attracted a higher number of entrants as riders seek state glory.  In past year’s its been the points races, now this is part of the National Championships, this year sees the Victorian Scratch Race Champs being held throughout the carnivals – one gender/age category on each carnival program.

In Tassie this year, the organisers have thrown their hats into the ring of promoting stalwart John Craven, who is putting on supporting criteriums throughout the track carnivals.  It will be interesting to see how this effects entries and more importantly, how it effects the crowds and support for the carnivals.  It’s a shame they won’t be running junior or women’s crits along with the elite offering given they’ve already got the courses closed.  I’m sure this would have attracted a much bigger crowd and more mainland juniors racing the track carnivals.

NSW is also offering four-days of track racing from the 27th to the 30th December; with racing on three outdoor tracks plus the opening day at Dunc Gray.  It looks like they’ve separated the junior event and limited it just under-13 and under-15 with the under-17s racing than main program with the older categories.  It will be interesting to see how this goes… especially in the graded scratch races and the like.  Not sure on numbers, but I know there has been strong growth in younger categories – even down to under-9 – so not sure on the decision to not include under-9s and under-11s on the junior carnival program?

All-in-all the Christmas Carnivals are a bit of a right of passage for young cyclists.  They’re a terrific bonding experience for families and let us all experience cycling how it used to be.  A look at the honour boards for these carnivals reveals a who’s-who of Australian cycling legends: Patterson, Clark, Pate, Neiwand, Aitkin, Gilmore, O’Shea, Bobridge, Perkins… the list goes on, and so do the carnivals… bring them on!

  1. Pete says:

    Any reports on how the Tassie carnivals were run this year?
    It seems info can be found at Not sure there was such a site last year?
    It looks like there were at least three junior events at all except Latrobe?
    Launceston seemed to have the last race quite late after the first so a bit of waiting there?
    Live results via Metarace is handy to see the full fields and other info like h’cap marks.
    Any other feedback appreciated as we’re thinking about it for next time.

    • cycdad says:

      Hey Pete
      Trying not to do ‘race reports’ as such. I have a post coming out that touches on the carnivals. Definitely the extra races are a positive. Few issues with Devonport getting the revised handicaps right but nothing too monumental. Would have been good if they’d run junior Crits along with the men’s event (the courses are set up so just an extra hour of traffic management personal).

      I’d say go for sure. Be ready for four massive days with travel and racing and waiting around. The support racing is terrific; was great watching Bobridge, O’Shea, Edmondson plus the internationals plus there is a carnival atmosphere. Maybe plan some other touristy things to do to break the racing up.


  2. Glenn Dietze says:

    It will be interesting to see the numbers at Xmas carnivals 2015/16 with the abolition of prize money. The state title events will as in Ballarat U15 scratch race championship but I am sir numbers for all the others will be down. This has been a terrible decision by CA and it will come back to bite them on the behind.

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