The 113th Austral Wheelrace, regarded as Australia’s greatest and most prestigious track cycling event, will be held at Thornbury's Darebin International Sports Centre Velodrome tomorrow night, Saturday February 26.
The Austral final field will be determined from four heats held in the evening's session, with the future of cycling on show in the Junior Austral final. Supporting events include invitational keirins, sprint eliminations, handicaps, heart-starters and the Victorian men's scratch race championships.
Australian sprint star Shane Perkins headlines the program, and although he will not contest the Austral, he is expected to fly around the track as he goes head to head with Malaysia's Josiah Ng and Canberra's Alex Bird in the keirin and sprint elimination events.
A great interstate battle is also expected between Victoria's generation next including Rick Sanders, Maddison Hammond, Luke Parker and Imogen Jelbart, when they face the likes of New South Wales' Caleb Ewan and brothers Scott and Jackson Law, plus South Australia's Glenn O'Shea and siblings Annette and Alex Edmondson.
The night will also include a 'Legends Austral' featuring Danny Clark, Stephen Pate, David Sanders and Laurie Venn, who combined claimed a total of ten wheelraces between 1977 and 1999.
The Austral is also the oldest track race still in existence, with the event beginning in 1887 where it was held on the Melbourne Cricket Ground over 3 miles (4800m), with first prize of a grand piano or a cabinet filled with silverware.
After being staged at Melbourne's Hisense Arena since 2001, the Austral returns to 'Northcote', the site of the old Northcote Velodrome in Thornbury where it was held 21 times between 1975 and 2000.
Over the course of 112 editions of the Austral, many great cyclists have taken the honours including World Champions, Gordon Johnson (1973) and Steele Bishop (1982), Sid Patterson (1962, 1964) and Venn (1979, 1981), Tassie Johnson (1944), Clark (1977, 1986, 1990), Pate (1988, 1991, 1993, 1999), Gary Neiwand (2000), Mark French, (2001), Ben Kersten (2005) and Shane Perkins (2009).