Burnie Farewells 2021 With a Bang!

December 31, 2021

The 135th Cool Ridge Burnie New Year’s Eve Carnival was headlined by local cyclists and runners off the back marks.

New South Wales-based Evandale sprinter Kysha Praciak (4.25m) took out a Gift filled with strong backmarkers in 14.16sec. Coached by former TIS director John Quinn, Praciak picked up $6000 in prize money.

“I’m absolutely stoked. It’s such a prestigious event, coming from Tassie, I’ve always wanted to win Burnie!”

Praciak was challenged throughout by Mia Gross (14.25sec, 1m) and fast finishing junior Torrie Lewis (14.31sec) who raced off the remarkable mark of -0.5m. Praciak remained focused throughout.

“I think I had really good momentum going, but I was waiting for Torrie and Mia to come at me. I just had to go all the way to the line and give it everything.”

The Men’s Gift has seen plenty of Jack Hale in recent times, but it was his 17-year old training partner Ryan Tarrant who prevailed in the closest Gift in years.

Split by thousandths, Tarrant had a nervous wait for the photo finish judges, 12.21sec (5.5m) edging Victorian private school rival Jesse Mckenna (12.22, 6.25m). Tarrant was aware of the prestige of the Gift coming in, with former Melbourne Grammar student Ollie Wurm winning in recent history. Tarrant was confident pre-race.

“I was quite confident, but I also knew there were some great athletes in the cohort, so I was wary of that.”

Tarrant capped a thrilling pro debut off in Burnie.

“t’s absolutely great. I’m ecstatic. To run the pro’s for the first time and have a run around with Jack Hale and some of the greats like Jake Doran, I’m just blessed in that regard.”

The Women’s Wheel Race signified the biggest win of 46-year old Suzanne Strates’ career. Racing off 250m, the Hobart Wheelers Club rider crossed the line first in 2:14.92, as clubmates Felicity Wilson-Haffenden and Jessie Sawyer took 2nd and 3rd. Strates was ecstatic.

“It just doesn’t get bigger than this for me, it’s just unbelievable!” Strates noted her tactics were simplified by the quality of the field, “It was just ‘go for it’ right from the start – I guess it did go to plan!” Alex Manly was highest placed of the backmarkers, 5th in 2:18.00.

The Men’s Wheel Race saw the mid-pack catch the front riders with two laps to go, as the backmarkers battled to bridge the gap. Hamish McKenzie of the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS) held on to win in 3:03.70, repeating his training group’s feat of a win in 2020. McKenzie was aware of the possibilities pre-race.

“What a great event it is to finish off the year. We knew it was our race to lose with the scratchies having such tough handicaps.”

McKenzie was appreciative of the vocal crowd after a difficult year, “It’s great the crowd’s come out like this, it makes us all ride a bit harder.”

The Men’s Mile saw King Island 1500m Olympic finalist Stewart McSweyn run the fastest time ever off scratch at Burnie, finishing mid-pack in 4:00.41sec.

An 800m specialist by trade, 22-year old New South Welshmen Ben Muston won off 210m, “I’m as surprised as you are!” remarked Muston. Having run his first pro events in Hobart earlier in the week, Burnie represented a big learning curve. Muston was thrilled to share the track with McSweyn.

“Stewy’s definitely an idol of mine, he doesn’t know who I am, but hopefully I can grab a photo later, that’d make my day!”

Download vision here and photos here.

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