Cycling stars hit our roads

By TANIA PHILLIPS

MURWILLUMBAH could become a major launching pad for young Australian road cyclists with the town being chosen to host two major National and International titles in May of this year.

The region, which has already proven a training ground for elite cyclists including Tour De France sprint champion Robbie McEwen and Athens Olympic gold medallist Sarah Carrigan, will now be the home of the Australian Under-19s and the Oceania Championships.

Cycling Australia Road Co-ordinator Tom Skulander said the two major events would be run in conjunction with the region's existing key national competition ? a round of the two-leg under-19 World Championship qualifying event.

Skulander said the under-19 titles, for both men and women, would still be a World Championship selection trial while the Oceania event, which would include competitors from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, was an open competition and counted towards World Championship selection for the open titles.

"The event, in May, is also part of the national road series," he said.

"The under-19 championships had traditionally been held in the Sunshine Coast in September but Queensland Events Corp decided not to continue funding."

He said Cycling Australia had been looking to move the event to earlier in the year anyway and took into account that a successful competition, run by Cycling Australia and Cycling Queensland, had already been established.

Skulander said Cycling Australia preferred to go with a proven competition rather than starting from scratch.

He said the well-run Australian qualifying race, as well as the region's typography had pushed the scales in Murwillumbah's favour.

Murwillumbah Club president Dave Costanzo said getting the competition was a major coup for the region and could only benefit the area's young cyclists.

"We are lucky we have what they (Cycling Australia) want in the way of a course and safe roads," he said.

"There are only a few places in Australia able to hold road races.

"This race has been part of the selection process for the world championships for several years.

"But up until now the under-19 Australia hasn't necessarily gone to the world championships because the Australian champion isn't decided until after the world titles."

He said now the young competitors who won the three-day road racing championship would not only most likely be a member of the Australian team for the world titles, to be held in Mexico in August of this year, but would also be the Australian champion.

"We have to hold the selection trials (which includes a race in Canberra in April and the Murwillumbah race the following week in early May) early in the year," he said.

"It gives us a chance not only to choose a team but also then prepare them for the world titles."

Last year the under-19 men's division of the Murwillumbah-Mooball three-day carnival was dominated by Western Australian brothers Cameron and Travis Meyer who both went on to win multiple world titles on the track.



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