The State of Tasmania is gearing up to become the hub of Australian cycling for the month of December. Along with the Christmas track carnivals that take place all over the state between Christmas and New Years, three of which have now also been granted UCI status with valuable qualifying points for the Olympics in Beijing, there may be another criterium in the mix. The city of Launceston is preparing to announce that it will again host a field of international stars for a twilight criterium through streets of the city on December 23, according to Tasmanian newspaper The Examiner. The event was last held in 2004 and won by local rider Matt Goss, now riding for team CSC.
Rumoured to be attending the event is this year's Tour de France runner up, Cadel Evans, as well as his Predictor-Lotto team-mate and three-time Tour de France green jersey winner, Robbie McEwen.
"We are in negotiation with those two," Launceston Cycling Classic steering committee chairman Hugh McKenzie confirmed.
"There's no doubt about it, these guys are the best of the best, and for them to be wanting to come and race in Tasmania says a lot for this event and for their desire to promote events here."
While the race has yet to be completely confirmed, the high-profile duo are likely to be joined by the pick of the Australian professionals such as Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole), Karl Menzies (Healthnet) and Chris Sutton (Cofidis) as well as a host of Tasmania's top cyclists.
"It would be great for Launceston but also great for cycling in Tasmania in general if these two did come down," TIS head cycling Coach Paul Brosnan said.
"But this is also a great opportunity to showcase our internationally successful cyclists like Matthew Goss, Wes Sulzberger, Karl Menzies and Caleb Manion.
"If it goes ahead, it will be fantastic and it will get the full support of our riders."
The timing of the event would coincide perfectly with the Tasmanian track carnivals as well as for the international stars who will be at home preparing for the 2008 season, many of whom are no strangers to the racing scene in Tasmania.
"Robbie McEwen raced our track carnivals when he was starting out in his career and Cadel Evans won the Tour of Tasmania as a youngster, and I think they have both previously competed in this event, so they certainly have a history of competing in Tasmania."