December 31, 2020
Women’s Wheel Race
Launceston’s Georgia Baker backed up a strong win in George Town, obliterating the field over the final lap whilst riding off the scratch mark. The Australia Cycling Team member had time to savour the win, playing to the local crowd in celebrating over the line – sending the crowd into rapturous applause.
“That was awesome, I wasn’t sure I was going to get up today, but I had some great team mates, Lauren Perry, Lily McLellan and Alex Manley, and they really helped me get up in the end” explained Baker.
“I’m always sitting on the wheel looking to see where they are, and when I caught them with about a quarter of a lap to go I thought yeah I’ve got this now” noted Baker.
“I wasn’t expecting that to be honest, when the handicaps got changed and everyone was pushed out 40m. I wasn’t sure I’d get up there today but credit to my team mates to get me there in the end” said Baker.
“Always great to celebrate the last 100m. It’s not very often you get to do that in a bike race, so I definitely made the most of it today” joked Baker.
“I haven’t raced the carnivals for two years, so to come out and race two and get two wins. I’m pretty happy and it gives me great confidence moving forward as well” said Baker, who will look to build off her Christmas Carnival form into the Tour Down Under.
Men’s Wheel Race
The loudest roar of the may have echoed out with a lap to ride in the Men’s Wheel Race. As Burnie local Campbell Palmer, all of 16 years old, held off a fierce last lap challenge from the Australian Cycling Team’s Luke Plapp.
Riding on his home track, the youngster took full advantage of his first Open Wheel Race ride, bouncing back after frustrating results in George Town.
“Oh, that was.. Very good! Home track – so I was loving every bit of it. I thought they were coming, but I just held them off” said Palmer.
“I tried to look in the glass just over in the corner, but I couldn’t see him coming. I just grit my teeth and kept on going” noted Palmer, thriving off the crowd noise.
Palmer was well aware of his competition, thrilled to hold off Australia’s very best track sprinters.
“I mean, he’s going to the Olympics so… yeah I’m pretty stoked” said Palmer.
Regarding the $5000 first place prize, Palmer appeared to complete some mental mathematics on the spot, a wry smile crossing his face as he realised what the winnings could assist with.
“Dunno… Maybe a new bike?” laughed Palmer.
The Burnie rider listed Richie Porte as an inspiration, with goals of riding professionally – a Burnie Wheel Race win a dream come true.
After equaling Cathy Freeman’s Tasmanian All-Comers record in the rarely run 100 yard distance in Penguin recently, Melbourne’s Hana Basic stormed home in the final thirty metres to continue her winning streak.
“It’s been a really good 4 weeks. I’m definitely finding my form finally after a few years. It’s so great to be back racing well” an excited Basic said.
Enduring a lengthy COVID-19 lockdown period in Melbourne, Basic reflected on her 2020.
“Funnily enough this has been the most motivated I’ve ever been. I think because I didn’t have much else to do. I was stuck at home, so training was my outlet. I really gave it everything this year, and it paid off” said Basic.
“I love the carnivals, I’ll definitely be back next year. If you guys will have me!” said Basic, who wore an ear-to-ear grin throughout her interview.
Basic forms as a potential 4x100m relay candidate in the Australian team headed to the 2021 Olympic Games.
“I’m hoping to get into a relay squad for Tokyo or something like that, and show that I can be one of the best”
Melbourne’s Aaron Leferink continued a successful night for sprinters in the white vest, as the 19-year old dipped on the line to win by the narrowest of margins.
“It’s amazing, I haven’t won anything like this, anything of this caliber – and it’s just amazing to be in Tasmania… I can’t really explain it – I’m just so overwhelmed right now. I never thought I’d be here six months ago, I’ve done it somehow, and it’s just awesome” said Leferink.
Leferink viewed the trip as a fun opportunity to see Tasmania and race with mates, a first-time visitor to the Christmas Carnival Series.
“It’s amazing, thank you to Burnie – I haven’t been to an event like this. It’s been so well organised, especially with the cycling as well, they’ve done an amazing job at scheduling the events and getting the athletes involved – I’m just so thankful to Burnie” said Leferink.
Leferink was a successful sprinter in the junior national ranks, working through a difficult few years of injuries.
“I’m relieved. I’ve been through a lot over the past few years – I’ve done a few hamstrings, had a few injuries. I’ve been under a lot of pressure as a junior to try and make Australian teams and make relay teams. I’ve had high expectations of myself and sometimes that got me down, so to be here, have no expectations and just say ‘I’m going to do the best I can’ – and to do that, it’s just amazing” said Leferink, the significance of the win setting in.
Whilst a little ways off the Olympic standard, Leferink was realistic about his prospects.
“I’m hoping to get up to the standard of the Hartmann’s, Despard’s and Hale’s – and I’m young, I’ve got time on my side. I’m going to train, and slowly get my times down and maybe go to something like Stawell, maybe win a Gift there – that would be amazing.”
In a year of multiple national records, mere days after placing Penguin atop the global mile rankings – Stewart McSweyn brought the crowd to their feet. Racing off scratch, King Island’s most dominant sporting export fell just short of the fabled sub-four minute Burnie mile, as Troy Atkins (255m) held on in the final straight winning in 4:00.50 to McSweyn’s 4:00.86.
A Devonport resident – Atkins was clearly exhausted by his efforts, thrilled to hold off a classy field.
“I’ve tried and tried and tried to get a win, so it’s great to get a win somewhere very tough like Burnie” said Atkins.
“I could hear him (McSweyn) coming, he was catching and catching and catching! I thought he was definitely going to pass me up the straight, and I was tying up a lot. I thought he had me, and I could hear the crowd cheering… about halfway around I thought I was dead, but it was just great to finish like that” exclaimed Atkins, thrilled with the biggest win of his career in front of a raucous crowd – holding off Australia’s best.
McSweyn was humble in defeat, repeatedly drawing focus to the ecstatic Burnie crowd.
“Pretty happy with it tonight, obviously the wind picked up a little bit – but it’s awesome to be amongst it, I love racing here. The ground’s in amazing condition, so I’m happy I was able to put up a good time and back up off two nights ago. There’s no better roar than that last lap, it was definitely a good four minutes out there”
Reflecting on his Australian all-comers record in Penguin, McSweyn was complimentary of the field.
“It probably took a little bit out of me, just because it meant so much to run well in that first one. It’s hard backing up off two days, but it’s good practice for what I’m going to have to do at the major championships. It’s fun being in there though, Troy was awesome out there, especially holding on off that mark with it being so windy out there”
Racing off the scratch mark, McSweyn kept a sensible strategy throughout.
“I think it’s always going to be hard running off scratch. But I just focused on picking up runner by runner – then when you get to that last lap, just give it everything. I got caught a little bit wide with 200 metres to go, which maybe cost me a little bit, but it’s a fun race to be involved in. I love being here, and I’d love to be back next year” noted McSweyn.
Chasing that elusive sub-four minute mile, McSweyn fell marginally short in tough conditions.
“I’m honestly not sure, I could kind’ve hear people shouting out splits but I was trying not to think about it too much. It was pretty hard, especially at that far end, running into the wind. I was trying not to focus too much on time and just execute a good race and pick off as many runners off as I could – especially on that last lap” explained McSweyn, regarding the time barrier.
With an Olympic year on the horizon, McSweyn outlined his thought process heading into Tokyo, a substantial media throng querying his event selection for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“I think I’ll just focus on training right now. Probably two months out from the Olympics I’ll kind of decide what I think I’ll have the best chance to contend for a medal in. That’ll be the big goal moving forward – I’m pretty happy with my shape at the moment, 3:50 in Penguin then four-flat in Burnie in pretty windy conditions tonight, obviously shows everything’s going well in training and I’m looking to step things up in the next couple of months.”
“The crowd makes a huge difference. I think every athlete would say that you’re not going to be able to perform near your best without the crowd there, so they make a huge difference and I love having them there. Hopefully I can come back and break that four minute barrier next year” repeated McSweyn, delighted by the local presence on the night.
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