Change of course helps professionals embrace the Launceston Cycling Festival, race director Nigel Baker says

HILL CLIMB: Cyclists from the 2015 Stan Siejka Cycling Classic ride out the course in its first year that moved to around the surrounds of City Park. Picture: Scott Gelston

HILL CLIMB: Cyclists from the 2015 Stan Siejka Cycling Classic ride out the course in its first year that moved to around the surrounds of City Park. Picture: Scott Gelston

Launceston is delivering an iconic event to Australian cycling, according to its race director Nigel Baker.

The 2016 Men’s Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic in its 13th year has come a long way from when the late Siejka and good friend Tom Sawyer first wanted to create a professional criterium race to rival Europe.

A change last year to move the race to the surrounds of City Park led to criticisms of the new course, but Mr Baker believed within 12 months the classic is now recognised as the “best street racing criterium in the country”.

“The new course is absolutely fantastic,” he said.

“The way people refer to, all around the country, as ‘the wall’ when going up Lawrence Street.

“People say ‘you’re going to Tassie to race up the wall’ – I think that’s pretty good.

“So it’s been received very well. Last year there was a few that were sceptical, but it’s definitely proven to be really good course.”

Heading towards this year’s Launceston Cycling Festival’s main race, Mr Baker said Australian professionals now associate Tasmania’s second largest city with the top end of the sport.

The prelude on Sunday also includes the MyState Elite Women’s and the BMW Elite Masters races.

“There’s people from all over Australia that come to Launceston just to race our event,” he said.

“I would say this year, depth-wise, it’s probably the highest quality field that we have put on the streets.”

But he was pleased that Launceston residents also embraced the annual event.

“A lot of Tasmanians like their cycling, just the way they get out and support it.”

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