High praise for criterium series

TASMANIA'S professional cycling team is providing a WorldTour feel to the state's Christmas criterium series.

Andrew Christie-Johnston's Genesys team is bringing a strong selection to the North-West Coast headlined by Nathan Earle's final appearance before joining fellow Tasmanian Richie Porte at elite cycling's big guns Team Sky.

World Tour Academy teammates Alex Clements and Campbell Flakemore plus Tom Robinson will complete the all-Tasmanian team in a series that  manager Christie-Johnston was happy to support.

``I think anything that supports the Christmas carnivals should be a huge positive,'' he said.

``A lot of people look for good preparation in racing, and adding the crits to the series should be a good thing.

``Crit series all around Australia are getting stronger, and this could turn into a Bay Series based in Tasmania. Potentially it could be that big.''

Christie-Johnston, whose team is to be renamed Avanti and has launched the careers of elite pros Porte, Will Clarke, Nathan Haas and Steele Von Hoff, said Tasmania continued to provide the ideal training ground to produce top-class cyclists.

Clements, whose last competitive ride was his home-town Launceston Classic, said the crits would provide ideal preparation for the road nationals in early January.

``These will be an ideal way to get more racing at this time of year,'' he said.

``We're taking a strong team and I'm really looking forward to it.''

Flakemore, who will race at Devonport and Burnie, is also excited about racing more crits, having claimed a National Road Series victory in one during the 2012 Tour of Murray.

``We like crits,'' he said. ``Neither of us are sprinters, so it's all about being aggressive and taking opportunities when you can.''

Robinson said Earle was excited about making his final appearance in an all-Tasmanian team.

``That's why he wanted to do this,'' Robinson said.

``None of us are pure sprinters but we can probably all have our own individual crack at getting results, so we'll have a bit of a free run.''

Robinson put in a strong showing in his home-town Stan Siejka Classic earlier this month, launching a gutsy solo break in the latter stages, and is a big fan of criterium racing.

``I've been building up all year and am getting back to some of my best form, so hopefully that was the start of things to come.

``The prizemoney in this series is pretty good and John Craven always puts on good races.''

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