THE Burnie Carnival may need to move from its traditional New Year’s Day date or risk losing its status as a premier cycling carnival, according to a new review into the future of the Tasmanian Carnivals Series.
Nanjing Night Net

The review also suggests organisers should consider cutting cycling from the Burnie event altogether as it battles falling competitor numbers due to clashes with mainland events.

“We’ve been talking to lots of people and the date at Burnie appears to be the issue that most people have an opinion on,” said Dave Culbert, a former Olympic long jumper who has been commissioned by the Sports Carnivals Association of Tasmania to conduct the review.

While Latrobe took the bold step of abandoning its traditional Boxing Day timeslot this year to combat dwindling numbers of competitors and spectators, organisers of today’s 125th Burnie Carnival remain steadfastly opposed to moving from New Year’s Day despite numerous conflicting priorities for cyclists.

The importance of mainland events, specifically the Bay Crits, mean today’s Burnie Wheel – with its star-studded history highlighted by Danny Clark’s hat-trick of wins off scratch in the ’70s – is likely to feature just a handful of elite riders.

“The Burnie Carnival has been decimated as far as A-grade riders go,” track handicapper Lloyd Pilgrim told The Examiner last month.

Burnie Athletic Carnival president Bruce Jackson has categorically ruled out changing the date to the oft-suggested New Year’s Eve, and has demanded the mainland events do so instead.

Culbert, whose media marketing company also services the Bay Crits and road nationals, said the clash of events stemmed from the date of the Tour Down Under, the WorldTour calendar opener, set by the Switzerland-based global body UCI and extremely unlikely to change to accommodate the Burnie Carnival.

“You’re not the big fish any more so have got to cut your cloth accordingly,” he said of the Tasmanian cycling events.

“When you see names like Sid Patterson up on the honour boards you’ve got to remember that was when this was the only thing for cyclists to do at this time of year. The track season used to go from October to March. Now it’s the preparation for the road season because that’s where the money is and that starts on January 1.

“The Tour Down Under governs the whole date situation. Other events are squeezed around it but something like the Bay Crits have done a lot to put Australian cycling where it is now.”

Culbert said he was yet to form an opinion on the prickly subject, but suggested event organisers often had to think outside the square to tackle obstacles.

“If numbers are going down you’ve got to look at why and take measures to arrest the slide and get the graph going in the opposite direction,” he said.

“Our philosophy is that you’ve got to cut your cloth to the circumstances. The Stawell Gift this year was held on the Tuesday for the first time since about 1878 because Monday was Anzac Day and we could not go up against the AFL match or we’d have lost TV coverage.

“So with regard to Burnie, it’s the cycling that’s being affected and maybe they just want to stage a running carnival because it’s not ideal to clash with the Bay Crits.

“Ebb and flow is not necessarily a bad thing. There is no running at Launceston but that did not seem to affect the entertainment.

“The traditional view is that Burnie is a cycling carnival. But if they are hell-bent on staying on that day why not become a running-only carnival?

“Or have the New Year’s Eve criterium as the main cycling event and just running on New Year’s Day. Just because something has happened for 100 years does not mean it has to keep going. If an event is losing its quality then they may have to change it because the Tour Down Under date is not going to change, so work around it.

“For a lot of events it’s about adapting to the circumstances you’ve got and Latrobe have done that brilliantly.”

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