THE time has come that gives Ballarat locals a reason as to why they have been unable to get a table at their favourite cafes, with Cycling Australia’s Road National Championships kicking off today.
Cyclists have been flocking to the city to familiarise themselves with the courses, and today racing will begin.
The world number two road racing cyclist Rachel Neylan arrived in Ballarat yesterday in preparation for Saturday’s road race.
“I’ve really come to like Ballarat. I’ve come here every single year since I started in January 2008 – it’s become the home of Australian cycling,” Ms Neylan said.
“It’s the biggest race and biggest opportunity for women in Australia to race with such a large crowd.
“As a professional cyclist, we race away for eight months in any year, so it’s nice to race in front of a home crowd and the Australian cycling community.”
Today commences the five-day elite event, with time trial races at Lake Wendouree, with under-23 men’s, elite and under-23 women, and elite men’s starting at different points throughout the day.
The races continue tomorrow with criterium on Sturt street, before a rest day on Friday.
The women and under-23 men will then compete in the road race around Buninyong and Mt Buninyong, Neylan’s specialty, on Saturday, before the men tackle the tough course on Sunday.
The 30-year-old professional cyclist said the climbing races suited her best, enjoying hard circuits and hill races, like what Mt Buninyong provides.
“Last year I finished third, and fourth in 2010 so I seem to be improving each year - let’s hope I can do that again,” she said.
“I’ll be racing to win it.”
SBS commentator and voice of Australian cycling Phil Liggett said the championships had become a major event for Australia and Ballarat.
“The championships have grown as cycling has grown within Australia,” Mt Liggett said.
“Ballarat has become the home of the Australian championships.”
Neylan now races with HiTec Products, with only one Australian teammate which will race with her this week, 2012 Olympian Chloe Hosking.
“If you want to start winning races – you have to believe you can. You have to be realistic, but make it believable. You have to have confidence in your own ability.
“I’ve taken confidence from the world championships and I’ve got to use it to my advantages. One race can change the way you think – give you experience, knowledge and confidence – to believe in yourself physically, tactically and psychologically.”