By Les Clarke
Racing promoter John Scott is aiming to rejuvenate cycling in New South Wales with the reinvention of the Sydney Thousand, a track race he successfully promoted in the 1970s and 80s. With riders such as Ben Kersten, Joel Leonard and Darren Young racing this mile handicap event, Scott hopes to capture the imagination of the Sydney public - much like the event did from the first race in 1903 until 1985.
Scott turned to putting on cycling events after retiring from racing and promoted the Sydney Thousand, named after the £1000 prize purse offered in 1903, plus a plethora of city-to-city races such as Bourke-Sydney and Goulburn-Sydney throughout the same era. The decline of the road racing scene in the state during the last twenty years has spurred Scott into action and he aims to stage the event at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome - a far cry from the tracks of Camperdown and the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the event was held for many years.
As always, though, the stumbling block is money. Scott says initial discussions with potential sponsors, "have been extremely positive." Companies such as Tooheys Brewery have previously sponsored the event, but Scott is "looking for the sponsor to come from the cycling industry - it is, after all, the very industry that this race is all about."
The race programme would include a match sprint, attracting riders such as Ryan Bailey and Theo Bos to repeat their Athens Olympics showdown. When asked how he would be able to gain the services of riders to race at the event, Scott seems a little concerned. "It's not impossible, but it's not easy trying to get authorities [riders' teams and managers] to co-operate."
Scott is also looking at the idea of a top-class criterium in Sydney. Melbourne with the Bay Crits and the Gold Coast have international criterium series in the summer, but Australia's biggest city lacks a showcase pro road event. Scott floated the idea of a criterium in Sydney's Centennial Park after discussions with Robbie McEwen in January. "The 'Ride for Life' charity ride took place here last year, why couldn't we have a race here each year?" said Scott. However, money is a problem once again, with the Centennial Park Trust asking an $18,000 fee for the park to be used for bicycle racing..
This frustrates Scott. "There's plenty of talent and depth," he says, "so there's no reason why we can't expose these great riders to Australian public, much like our Olympic swimmers." Australian cycling has never been stronger, as shown by the country's Olympic medal haul last year and the number of pro riders now campaigning in Europe. But putting on a road race in the country's largest city remains challenging. Scott plans to help break down the barriers by bringing Eddy Merckx to Australia and staging an attempt on the Canberra-Sydney record by Quick Step's Michael Rogers, the aim being to expose more of Sydney's population to cycling and lay the groundwork for future growth. Dollars may be hard to find, but Scott seems determined to do his bit to lift the profile of the sport in Sydney.