WITH less than 200 days to go until Australia’s best hit the start line in Ballarat for the 2018 Cycling Australia (CA) Road National Championships, momentum is building behind the scenes.
Planning for the 2018 edition of the Championships is well underway with a CA Course Assessment Team completing its initial assessment of a range of new course opportunities and options for the event which begins on January 3. A host of Australia’s elite cyclists and astute cycling minds form the Panel including former Paris to Roubaix winner and 2006 Commonwealth Games road race gold medallist Mathew Hayman; former pro-continental rider and Ballarat native Pat Shaw, dual criterium national champion Kimberley Wells; WiggleHigh5 Sport Director and former Australian National Women’s Team Director Donna Rae-Szalinski; and CA General Manager of Sport, Kipp Kaufmann.
Taking into consideration a number of components critical to both riders and spectators, in addition to logistical and financial elements, in May the Panel outlined more than a dozen course options in the Ballarat region. More recently in June, the options were shortlisted following a course reconnaissance visit to Ballarat, with these to be tabled at the next Panel meeting in July. “While there are obvious constraints to where the Nationals can be run, and while the course is a great Championship course, I think it’s good to explore more options,” said Hayman, who brings critical input to the panel as a twenty-year career professional cyclist. “Traditionally a Championship is run on a variety of terrains and courses making sure that all types of riders have a chance to be crowned champion and wear that very special jersey. Hayman himself is twice a time top-ten finisher in the road race held on the famous Buninyong circuit, which is lined by tens of thousands of fans each January. “In recent years, there has been a tremendous atmosphere created by the fans on the Buninyong climb which is equal to anything you will find racing in Europe,” Hayman added.
“I think that we have a fantastic course, one that has produced exciting racing and deserving winners across all grades.”
Also providing invaluable insight from her experience within all levels of the sport both as an athlete and now as a team director, Rae-Szalinski is excited about what the process has presented. “I am really excited about the alternatives we have created, but more importantly and regardless of the final outcomes, it shows that CA is listening to our body of cyclists,” said Rae-Szalinski, an advocate of change while recognising the quality of the current course. “I think that the existing Buninyong course is a very good one, it has so many good things, amazing for spectators, and is a challenging course for the riders,” she explained.
“And at our nationals, it really feels like you are in Europe, so we don’t want to do anything that will diminish that. “However, we want to ensure that all of our riders have the opportunity to win their national title. “So we have looked at ways to create a more tactical race, one that is more challenging to all of our riders. “Perhaps that is one that keeps the core element of the Buninyong course but also presents opportunities for sprinters to get around the course and put pressure on the pure climbers.” The Committee’s recommendations are subject to final approval by stakeholders, Victoria Police and the City of Ballarat, with a decision to be made on all three courses – criterium, time trial and road race in August. “We ask that all the riders and fans remain open-minded. This is a very complex situation with lots of factors to be considered,” RaeSzalinski added. “People have to understand, despite the fact we have engaged time and effort in options, it might be a case that we stick with the original course for 2018 with a look to change in subsequent years. “The difficulty comes with the logistics and the costs of implementing changes. As much as we want to deliver something that pleases everyone, ultimately any decision will need to have final approval.”