About 15,000 fans expected for men's road race

YOU MAY have noticed more cyclists on Ballarat’s roads this festive season.

In one week’s time, the city will welcome more than 650 of Australia’s elite in battle. Plus more than 1000 recreational riders will suit up for the annual Amy’s Ride, a fundraiser promoting shared road safety, making its Ballarat debut.

There will be masses of cycling support crews, a media cavalcade complete with television crews and about 15,000 cycling enthusiasts to line the roads for the marquee event, the men’s road race in Buninyong.

But Ballarat Regional Tourism director George Sossi said the Cycling Australia Road National Championships was more than just a sporting event.

It was a festival. There was something for everyone.

“There is a real carnival atmosphere, restaurants open, lots of activities,” Mr Sossi said.

“Buninyong has that whole Tour de France feel about it because the King of the Mountain has taken on a life of its own.

“People picnic all the way up the climb on Mt Buninyong where there’s more chance to see cyclists up close and slower in action.”

The King of the Mountain is a brutal showdown with points available to each race’s best climber. The elite men will make the climb 13 times in their 196-kilometre journey.

If the thought makes your legs burn, take comfort in enjoying a courtesy bus from the Buninyong Town Hall to the mountain top to listen to the cowbells, snack at the sausage sizzle, people-watch colourful dressed-up characters and watch Australia’s best do their hard work.

The elite men’s road race and Thursday evening’s Sturt Street criterium – where coffee drinkers and ice-cream eaters relax as cyclists speed around and around a downtown block – are the most popular spectator events.

All criterium, road race and time trial titles will be broadcast on national broadcaster SBS – the men’s elite road race live and all the rest in highlights.

The criterium has been moved one block down Sturt Street to better showcase the Ballarat Town Hall, time trials have been moved from Learmonth to Lake Wendouree and the Arch of Victory to promote the city’s iconic sites, and the road race has been modified to take in more of the Buninyong countryside.

All to help best show off Ballarat.

Championship race director Sean Muir said the City of Ballarat and Ballarat Regional Tourism did a great job hosting major events but it was the spectators and buzz about town that really made it successful.

“Anyone in Ballarat, cycling fans or not, would be crazy not to come along and enjoy themselves,” Mr Muir said.

“It’s such a great thing for the Ballarat region.”

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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