AUSTRALIA'S leading road cycling team managers have reacted enthusiastically to a bold plan to reinvigorate the Tasmanian Christmas carnivals through the introduction of criterium racing into a new seven-day format.
"I'm sure it's the way to move forward," said 2007 Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic winner Tim Decker, now high- performance coach of Australia's track endurance team.
"We will have more influence on getting the best riders over to Tassie, knowing there are a couple of crits as well."
Hobart's Andrew Christie-Johnston, manager of the highly successful Huon Salmon-Genesys National Road Series team, said the addition of criteriums brought exciting extras to the carnivals.
"We have always done the Bay Series in Victoria but are now considering the carnivals exercise because it will give our riders a bit more rest before the national road titles in Ballarat and set them up for a good campaign," he said.
It is proposed to conduct three criteriums at Latrobe on Boxing Day, Devonport on December 29, and Burnie on New Year's Eve.
Total prizemoney for the cycling component will be a lucrative $100,000, including $20,000 for the criteriums.
Decker, a regular visitor to the carnivals, is anticipating bringing a talented young line-up.
It includes four riders - Glenn O'Shea, Alex Edmondson, Miles Scotson and Luke Davison - who are likely to form the backbone of the Australian teams pursuit squad at next year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
O'Shea and Edmondson represented Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games. O'Shea won a silver medal in the teams pursuit and was the star performer at last season's Tassie carnivals, with a clean sweep of the major wheel races.
Davison, a former world junior track champion, won the 2012 Tour of the Murray River and National Road Series.
Decker indicated that he was also considering entering the four-man Australian pursuit team of Zac Shaw, Callum Scotson, Josh Harrison and rising star Jack Edwards which won the world junior championship in Glasgow earlier this month.
Decker was pleased to learn that the four track carnivals of Latrobe (December 27), Launceston (December 28), Devonport (December 29 and 30) and Burnie (January 1) would cram their best events into a two-hour action-loaded program each evening, providing more exciting viewing for spectators.
"It's going to help our track endurance riders do road work in the morning and then put on a great spectacle at the track each night," he said.
Christie-Johnston said he would have to put extra thought into the type of rider he brought to the carnivals.
He is looking at a squad consisting of 2012 national criterium champion and SCODY Cup winner Anthony Giacoppo, plus the well-performed Tom Robinson, Aaron Donnelly, Jack Beckinsale and Brenton Jones.
Two other NRS team managers Agostino Giramondo (Drapac) and Trent Wilson (GPM Data#3), were equally effusive in their support of the innovations.
"I really hope this concept takes off," Giramondo said. "It's the best thing since sliced bread.
"The carnivals needed a break from drawn-out tedious track racing every day and night. It will give the public something different to watch."
Wilson, twice a finisher in the gruelling Tour of Italy and 2002 Herald Sun Tour king of the mountains champion, said: "I grew up as a kid in New South Wales listening to the glowing reports about the Tassie Christmas carnivals.
"I will send a likely four- man team down there, including Scott Law who won the Australian under 23 criterium championship last year. It will be good for our boys to get down there."
John Craven, whose company Caribou Publications is working with the Sports Carnivals Association of Tasmania on promoting the Christmas series, said he and cycling co-ordinator Rick Martin had spoken to dozens of interstate cyclists about the series.
"The response we have received is wonderfully encouraging," Craven said.
"Caribou is committed to upgrading the standard and number of riders at all four carnivals so that spectators, sponsors and the media can enjoy and cover quality entertainment.
"It's a tough and challenging assignment for all concerned, but it's certainly winnable."