It was billed as Australia’s most spectacular and challenging one-day bike race, and the inaugural Tas Gas Launceston to New Norfolk Classic lived up to all expectations.
Replacing the time honoured Launceston to Hobart race, this new event provided riders with a little bit of everything as Tasmania's weather threw all it could at the field.
Home-state hero Bernard Sulzberger, riding for Fly V Australia, took the spoils. He was one of seven riders - of 76 at the start - to reach the finish line, highlighting just how tough the race was.
From the moment the field left the Launceston Casino on Sunday morning, the race took its toll on the field, whittling the peloton with every kilometre raced.
Winds – estimated at 90km/h - buffeted riders when they were out on the open roads. While there was some respite from the gale as they ascended tree-lined climbs, there was constant rain and, over the top of Poatina Hill, riders had to contend with snow.
It was only when the field had been reduced to smattering of small groups that anyone saw the sun.
After 127km the race jury made a decision, in the interests of safety and for the future of the race, to reduce the length of the race.
Race organisers cut 60km from the Classic’s 210km distance and ferried the seven remaining riders to Gretna Green. There, the race was restarted with 20km to-go.
Sulzberger was pitted against Drapac Porsche rider Rhys Pollock, Praties’ Dylan Newell, Fly V teammate Benjamin King and Cycle Sports team member Ashley Baines for the final 20km, but the smart money was on the Tasmanian.
Sulzberger and Pollock made their final move about 8km from the finish and established a handy time split on the chasers. It was advantage the pair were able to extend to more than 2 minutes.
In the final straight, Sulzberger simply displayed his sprint prowess and rode away from Pollock to claim victory in the first edition of the race.
Newell led the chasers home, 2:47 behind the winner.
Sulzberger also claimed the Tall Timbers King of the Mountain title – in a countback from King, who won the BOC Sprint Championship.
The King of Poatina Challenge, awarded to the first rider to complete the race’s only Category 1 climb went to South Australian rider Gene Bates. However, the ascent took its toll as he was brought back to the peloton. He later abandoned.
The Apple Isle will remain the centre of attention for cycling this week as the Cat Underground Mining Tour of Tasmania starts in Devonport on Tuesday.
The 655 kilometre, six-day, 10-stage race is the fourth and final leg of the Australian Road Championship series: the Scody Cup.
|1||Bernard Sulzberger (Tas)||5:01:02|
|2||Rhys Pollock (Vic)||0:00:02|
|3||Dylan Newell (Vic)||0:02:47|
|4||Benjamin King (WA)||0:02:50|
|5||Ashley Baines (Vic)|
|1||Tim Elmer (Tas)|
|1||Jim Avens (Tas)|
|1||Bernard Sulzberger (Tas)|
|1||Benjamin King (WA)|
|1||Gene Bates (SA)|
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