By John Kenny
Launceston International criterium race organiser Tom Sawyer today told Cyclingnews that he is 90 percent sure that the race will be back on at the end of the year. The race last took place in 2004 but organisers ran into funding difficulties and a lack of support from the local council.
Sawyer is aiming to get all of the Australian Tour de France stars to participate and will contact riders of the calibre of Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers and Simon Gerrans. Other top professionals, such as Chris Sutton (Cofidis), would also be approached if a start date can be formalised.
The organisers have an ally in Australian Davitamon-Lotto manager Alan Peiper, "I spoke to Alan about the possibility of getting [McEwen and Evans] and he seemed to think that it would be okay," said Sawyer.
The preferred time for the event would be Sunday December 17, in order to avoid a clash with the popular Christmas track carnival, which is also held in Tasmania. The staging of the event a week prior to Christmas would also eliminate much of the logistical problems of putting on a race on or near a public holiday, such as the employment of support personnel, volunteers and the rental and storage of equipment such as crash barriers.
The cost of staging the event would be around $200,000, which is a relatively modest sum according to Sawyer, "Robbie McEwen could get 40,000 euros in appearance money for riding a post Tour crit but he's an Aussie who is supportive of the local scene. He hasn't forgotten his roots. Both McEwen and Stuart O'Grady said that that they thought that the event was fabulous and they would be back," said Sawyer.
There is a likelihood that the race will again be televised by SBS. Sawyer said that he had spoken to journalist Michael Tomalaris and a high-ranking producer at the network who were 'pretty keen' to see the race on TV again. "Launceston is the third-oldest city in Australia and the race looks absolutely fabulous," said Sawyer. "Launceston [looks so picturesque] that someone watching the race could think they are watching a race in Europe."
"[In 2004] we had over 10,000 people attend the event and the corporate world was very supportive," said Sawyer. "But there was a lack of support from some key people, but I don't want to go there.". A change in personnel at the council seems to have decreased the odds of the race being put back on, "The new general manager is sports-minded and could be more supportive of the event," said Sawyer.