Cycling


A cycling race at Cambridge, 1908 (AOT, PH30/1/4327)

Cycling has attracted enthusiastic support in Tasmania since the 1880s, when the first cycling clubs in Launceston and Hobart organised race meetings, but it really became popular in the 1890s, with the introduction of the 'safety bicycle' with pneumatic tyres, chain-drive and gear mechanism. Good tracks were built, Latrobe providing the model. This paved the way for the annual north-west coast race meetings, where attractive prize money lured professional riders from Australia and overseas, generating high public interest. The energy of some pioneer cyclists, notably Tom Hallam and Frank Beauchamp, ensured that road racing was integral to the sport, exemplified by the annual Launceston-to-Hobart event.

Early attempts to form a cycling association foundered on north-south rivalry, then on the amateur-professional split. But community-based clubs were vigorous, especially at the coastal carnivals (Burnie, Latrobe and Devonport), and consistently fostered diversification, particularly after 1945. Six-day track cycling in Launceston (196171), Tours of Tasmania and Tours of the North (held in most years since 1954), the national penny-farthing championships held annually at Evandale since 1983, the growth of BMX riding encouraged by Berriedale's national-standard track, mountain bike racing and more recently, the Launceston criterium, have all contributed to cycling's high profile. Cycling benefited from the amalgamation of amateur and professional clubs into the Cycling Federation of Tasmania during the 1980s, and the construction of Australia's first international-standard indoor velodrome in Launceston in 1985, which greatly facilitated Australian track cycling until other states built similar facilities.

Tasmania has produced more world champions in cycling than any other sport. The trailblazer was Alfred Grenda, the first Australian world champion, who won four world tandem titles from 1914. His family dynasty of champions includes his great-nephew Michael Grenda, who won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games as part of Australia's 4000m pursuit team. Ossie Nicholson, who rode in the 1931 Tour de France, won the world endurance record twice, in 1934 and 1937. Graeme French won the world motor-paced title in 1956. Graham Gilmore was the best six-day cyclist in the world in 197475, holding the world mile record, and his son Matthew won the world 60km madison title in 1998, and a silver medal (representing Belgium) at the 2000 Olympics. Tim O'Shannessey won the world team pursuit title in 1993, capturing a world record, with a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics, Mark Jamieson won a world junior title in 2002, and Matthew Goss won two junior world titles in 2004. Jim Nevin (1952), Kevin Morgan (1968) and Michael Wilson (1980) are others who have represented Australia in Olympic Games, while Mac Sloane and brothers Frank and Grant Atkins have won numerous Australian professional titles.

Danny Clark, Tasmania's first individual Olympic medallist (1972), is undoubtedly Tasmania's greatest cyclist, and arguably Australia's greatest track cyclist. Twice world keirin champion (198081), and twice world motor-paced champion (1988, 1991), holder of numerous Australian titles and one of the world's most accomplished six-day cyclists, Clark excelled on both track and road for nearly thirty years from the late 1960s.

Finally, Graeme Milburn elevated Tasmanian cycling to a higher level during the 1980s and 1990s, with his annual cycling rides around Tasmania in support of cancer research.

Peter Henning