I have just arrived in Tasmania, in the Launceston airport, for the S.C.A.T Christmas Carnivals.
The journey from Launceston to Ulverstone was a nice drive along the barren scenery of the island of Tasmania. We arrived at Ulverstone at 9pm, being Christmas day, no shops or stores were open to accommodate the appetites of the hungry cyclists. The Malaysian team, with Gary Neiwand as driver vs. New Zealand with Willie Rastrick at the wheel had a race to find the nearest place to get dinner. New Zealand came out on top, find a BP service station which the Malaysian team overshot.
The young man working at the BP was overwhelmed, almost 20 people were in the store at once. It was pandemonium, the noodles and cup of soup struggled as the shelves were assaulted by the men and women brawling to settle their ravishing starvation.
The New Zealanders carnival experience began with the Latrobe carnival. The team arrived at the burgundy coloured flat track at 8.45 and it ended at 6.45 after three rain out stops. The carnival consisted on cycling, wood chopping, running and some involuntary grass track riding by Eddie.
The first race up was the UCI sprint qualifying, possibly the hardest even to do on a flat track as there is no banking to get a run off. The tram went out and posted some good times Sam doing an 11.5 (6th) and Eddie posting an 11.8, both qualifying for the match sprints and gaining UCI points with Regan who was 15 at the time narrowly missed out on qualifying. In the match sprints Eddie and Sam were up against Shane Perkins (current world cup leader for sprints) and Jason Niblett (current member of world cup leading Team sprint team). The race was four-up on the 500m track, with seemingly nothing to do against riders of this calibre and with no banking to try a surprise attack. Sam attacked, Perkins sat on his shoulder and got steam rolled down the back straight by Perkins and Niblett leaving the two kiwis to fight for the minor placings.
Next up was the Clarkes wheel handicap heats, all the New Zealander males failed to make it through the heats. The two k’s was mayhem on wheels. With a few thousand dollars up for grabs every rider left their best on the track.
Then the event which is big in Japan with betting and a racehorse style of atmosphere was up, the keirin. The first running of the Eddie and Sam’s heat got rained off after being all lined up ready to start when it temporally pelted down. The re-run was held roughly 10-15minutes later when the track was ‘dry’ according to the officials. The heat was Shane Perkins, Joel Leonard (aka Chopper), Eddie Dawkins and Sam Webster.
This ended up being the first annual grass track race for Eddie.
After the keirin there was the heats of the inaugural Latrobe Wheel. The race was now three kilometres long, the race was expected to scar the lungs more than the Clarkes wheel race heat, but amazingly the race was slower as everybody was well fatigued from the previous races.
The Team Sprint came up, it was the David vs. Goliath match of the century with the New Zealand team fielding two under 19s and one elite rider with all other teams being world champs and Olympics representatives. The kiwis kept their composure and ended up being granted the win at Latrobe and win and gather the $650 prize money. ( Whether the sides of the track were even are highly disputed but this makes for a good story)
The next day of racing was on the majestic indoor track of Launceston. Here was the second round of the UCI sprint events. The programme again started with a flying 200 for the seeding to go towards the three-up match sprints later in the programme. Eddie Dawkins was one of the early qualifiers post a 10.7 which topped the leader board for a considerable amount of time. After a puncture to the disc he was using, Sam posted a P.B of 10.68. Regan came and posted a respectable 11.5.
The match sprints were exciting with Eddie facing ‘Nibbo’ and Malaysian lad. Eddie managed to shut Nibblett out of contention but left his run too late and narrowly got piped by the Malaysian. Sam faced Shane Perkins and a rider from NSW, with an opportunity appearing at 1 and ½ to go Sam attempted a flyer…(emphasis on attempted), we was later rolled by the NSW rider and Shane Perkins went underneath leaving him stuck.
The boys lined up to retain the reputation they had earned at the Latrobe track in the team sprint. Without any disc wheels as they had all punctured the lads fought an uphill battle. The teams managed to get 5th which isn’t ideal but is reasonably consistent.
Sam went on to make the wheel race final, he made the wise choice of going in the ‘cut’ to increase his odds of winning. The riders he was working for got 2nd and 3rd and Sam pocketed a tidy $160.
The next carnival was the 2days of racing at the Devonport velodrome. The first day the boys had two wheel race heats, and a keirin qualifier. With Sam qualifying for the 1km lightening handicap final and Eddie qualifying for the two final. The keirin was rough event for the boys and failed to produce the goods on the day.