By Les Clarke
After months of hard work by promoter John Scott, the Sydney Thousand is set to bring first-class track racing to Sydney on November 27 at Dunc Gray Velodrome. On a perfect autumn day at Sydney's SCG, Scott announced that Avanti Bicycles had come on board as headline sponsor of the event that aims to pit the best track racers from Australia and abroad against each other in a scratch race for cash prizes.
World Cup champ in the 1km TT, Ben Kersten, is the drawcard for fans stating at today's launch that he'll ride the 'scratch for cash'. World Cup champion in the women's scratch race, Kate Bates, also expressed her intention to ride at the meeting. Bates is currently recovering from throat surgery which interrupted her road programme with Van Bemmelen-AA Drink.
Both Kersten and Bates enjoyed successful track seasons, dominating World Cup events and performing solidly at the World Championships in Los Angeles in March. Bates took two silver medals and a bronze whilst Kersten took fourth in the 1km TT, an event he had in his sights leading up to the event. Both Bates and Kersten will make world record attempts during the Sydney Thousand meet - Kersten the flying lap and Bates the flying kilometre - and they're confident of giving the present marks a good shakeup. It is hoped that with both of these riders on board and enthusiatic, other elite track riders such as Ryan Bayley, Graham Browne and Steven Wooldridge will ride come November.
Ray Godkin, UCI vice president, who was present at the launch believed the timing of the event would fit perfectly into the schedules of most riders, allowing a high-class field to assemble at Dunc Gray Velodrome. Kersten believes that with the money on offer "riders like Brownie and Wooldridge won't be able to resist. It's not good to do it just for the money, but it certainly attracts you to racing." Scott realises that this combination of timing and money should spell success for a discipline of cycling that is mostly short of financial opportunities.
The Sydney Thousand, however, is also designed to be a "day of racing for the entire family" according to Graham Blackman. Blackman, as representative of Avanti Bicycles, exists as the main sponsor of the Sydney Thousand; and it's the injection of funds they bring that may even lure Japanese Keirin riders, who are used to riding at big track meetings for cash in Japan. Kersten himself is actually putting $1000 into a junior scratch race after seeing how little financial incentive there is for young racers to attend track meetings - "these kids told me how they'd won twenty bucks or something like that for winning a race, and I thought I'd do something about it."
Not only will there be prizemoney for riders, but spectators will be able to bet on the race. Colourful horse racing identity Robbie Waterhouse arrived with his odds board at the SCG, something that should attract patrons in itself. But it's the prospect of excellent racing for the Avanti Sydney Thousand trophy and cash prizes that John Scott hopes will raise the interest of Sydneysiders in track cycling.
Cyclingnews has been told the trophy on offer will immortalise Major Taylor, the American cycling sensation who won the event in 1905; a statue of Major Taylor's black bike will honour the cyclist. In the year he won, 54,000 spectators watched at the SCG - the sight for today's launch - and it's hoped in 2005 that the event may be able to garner a level of support nearing these heights.