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Stars return to Launceston's streets

Robbie McEwen (Silence Lotto)

Robbie McEwen (Silence Lotto) (Image credit: Ben Mason)

Organisers of the fifth Launceston Cycling Classic have managed to assemble one of the classiest fields seen for a one-day race in Australia. Luring the cream of Australia's European-based talent to the hotbed of cycling in the Apple Isle has been a hallmark of this event since its inception, and this year's event looks to be the best ever.

The likes of Stuart O'Grady, Robbie McEwen, Simon Gerrans, Baden Cooke and Mark Renshaw will compete against Tasmania's best talent next month as a curtain raiser of sorts ahead of the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals. Race committee member Scott Chellis told The Examiner that the field for this year's race is, "the greatest line-up of cyclists Tasmania has ever seen."

Tasmanian Institute of Sport head cycling coach Matthew Gilmore explained to the local publication that, "It's just fantastic for our younger kids to be able to rub shoulders with riders that have not only competed in the Tour de France but worn leader's and sprinter's jerseys and won stages."

Bernard Sulzberger, one of Tasmania's current crop of talented riders, will ride the December 21 event before heading to the United States of America to race in 2009. "The first time I raced it was the year Robbie McEwen won and that was pretty big for me," said the 24-year-old. "It's great to have this race because it's so good for the young guys coming through to race against these names. It's a great learning curve. When I first did it I had never raced against anyone like that."

Sulzberger's younger brother Wes has also competed in the event in the past, although the Française des Jeux neo-professional will skip this year's edition to fulfil commitments to Marc Madiot's squad. Like Matt Goss before him, the younger Sulzberger used the Launceston event to launch his career against the best Australia has to offer.

"I've been waiting to try and get recognised by pro teams so it's good to finally join one," said the 22-year-old, who came second to Goss in Launceston last year. "I've been riding since I was 11 years old down at the Exeter bike track coached by Paul Manion and know what this race means. To have all the big names coming over here is only going to help our younger riders. It will inspire them to keep going and hopefully they can see that if they keep pushing through it can take them places."

The fifth Launceston Cycling Classic will take place on Sunday, December 21, from 7pm along St John, Cimitiere, George and York streets.

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