By Rod Morris
An all-class field will signal an exciting start to this year's Toohey's Extra Dry Tasmanian Criterium Championships - starting today (Saturday, November 19) in Ulverstone. Two of last year's unique three-way tie - Bernard Sulzberger and Nathan Clarke - will not be afforded the status of pre-race favourites, though, given the announcement that Australia's World Cup team pursuit heroes, Mark Jamieson and Matt Goss would also line-up.
Jamieson and Goss were part of the 4000 m pursuit team, which won gold at the recent Moscow round of the World Cup and Jamieson also won a silver medal in the individual pursuit at the same track carnival. Jamieson and Goss were also jointly named Tasmania's male sportsmen of the year at a function in Hobart last week.
Sulzberger has enjoyed a solid year of racing at home in Australia this year, finishing second in the Tour of the Murray River, which was part of the successful Tattersall's Cup series, whilst Clarke has been strangely quiet on the racing front, but will use the Criterium Championship series in a bid to step up his preparation for the upcoming National Grid Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals.
A quality field of riders will face the A Grade starter for the 35 lap Ulverstone Criterium, which will be the first of three rounds of the State title. Devonport will host Round 2 on November 26 before riders head back to Ulverstone on December 10.
Last year's other three-way winner, Karl Menzies, has just returned from the Tour of New Zealand and is enjoying a two week break before heading to America, where he is about to start a new racing contract.
Wesley Sulzberger - Bernard's younger brother - will be another rider to watch closely tomorrow. Sulzberger jnr finished in the top 10 in the recent Herald Sun Tour and will be looking to upstage his elder brother and the other fancied riders in Ulverstone.
Devonport based riders Jarrod Harman and John Rayner will also be looking to improve on their performances on the national scene this year.
A special feature of the race will be the Goodstone Sprint King Championship. Six intermediate sprint laps will carry a sliding scale of points - as well as extra prize money - towards deciding the Sprint King.
Whilst the A Grade men's race will be the drawcard event on the programme, there will also be races for B Grade Men, Invitational Women, North-West Veterans and a special Aurora Devonport sponsored junior series for riders in U17, U15 and U13 age groups.