Ben Powell, Gabrielle Rusbridge, Asher Jones, Glen Stephens, Michael Preece, Lonain Burnett, Ned Pollard and Braeden Dean are ready for the madison. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

STRONG fields will contest athletics and cycling events at this year’s Bendigo International Madison carnival.

Organisers say they’re pleased with the fields, though athletic events are slightly down on previous years.

The carnival officially kicked off last night, with local club racing and the Frank McCaig Memorial Wheelrace.

Tonight sees junior racing and the first running of the madison prelude race, with the winners to take a points advantage into Sunday’s main event.

Related: Madison a wide open affair

Saturday is women’s night, with the Black Pearl 400-metre event and the women’s madison taking centre stage.

All the while, athletics events such as the Black Opal 400m, Bendigo Thousand and Golden Mile will be run on a pristine infield with a strong lineup of competitors.

“We’re pleased with the fields for the weekend, especially in the cycling and the madison looks to be a strong race,” committee chair Warren Sinnott said.

“The athletics are probably down on the last few years which is disappointing, but I think we are seeing that with athletics events across the state.

“Overall we think it will be another terrific weekend.”

Eight teams will contest tomorrow night’s women’s madison, with 15 teams to do battle in Sunday’s 200-lap classic.

Plenty of athletics events will be on show, with Saturday’s Black Pearl 400-metre final for women and Sunday’s Bendigo Thousand, and Black Opal 400m finals.

The likes of local athletes Lonain Burnett and Michael Preece will be eagerly awaiting the events, as will female athletes who this year will be racing for equal prizemoney.

“It was just one of those things that made sense to do, so hopefully we see that attract more and more athletes each year,” Sinnott said.

Gates open each day at Tom Flood Sports Centre at 1pm, with finals on Saturday and Sunday evenings starting about 5.30pm.

– Joel Peterson