THE tightest of photo finishes from Victorian Neil Van Der Ploeg and home- town teenage champion Lauren Perry guaranteed plenty of excitement for the crowds that flocked to see yesterday's five-hour festival of free sport in Launceston.
The annual Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic maintained its reputation for showcasing world-class cycling and even added elite athletics to the agenda, which was lapped up on a balmy evening in the central business district.
Having won the Tour of Tasmania sprinters' jersey, 25-year-old Van Der Ploeg relished his return to the state, claiming the $4000 first prize by just seven- thousandths of a second from New South Welshman Scott Law, with Ben Grenda banking a second successive home-town podium in third.
"It was very, very close," said the Search 2 Retain winner.
"It's a really good win for the team ... I'm running really low on cash so the money is going to be really helpful."
Twelve months after leading Perry across the line, the since-retired Belinda Goss was waving the chequered flag to signal the 16-year- old's step up the podium, with Victorian Kendelle Hodges second and Perry's Polygon teammate Georgia Baker third.
"It means a lot to win such a big race in front of my home crowd," said Perry, adding that it was inspirational to hail from a state which has produced junior world champions like Baker and Amy Cure plus Tour de France contenders such as Richie Porte, who played a pivotal role in last night's men's race.
Ulverstone's Douglas Hamerlok showed his versatility by adding the inaugural five-kilometre run to his Point to Pinnacle title in a rejigged schedule which suggested the decade-old classic should enjoy a future as sunny as yesterday's weather.
REPORTS: Pages 36-37