CYCLING enthusiasts, professional riders and curious locals all congregated on Sturt Street last night for the criterium in Cycling Australia’s Road National Championships.
The second day of the five-day championships is always a favourite for spectators, to gather in the warm summer evening by the finish line at the corner of Dawson Street, watching competitors go past 33 or 40 times, lapping the circuit.
SBS commentator and the voice of cycling Phil Liggett said that after coming to Ballarat for 10 years to watch the national championships, he had seen the city develop with the sport.
“Everyone is just talking about cycling. I was at Coles the other day – and the checkout lady asked me if I used to be a professional cyclist and we talked about cycling,” Mr Liggett said.
“There are just lovely people in Ballarat – and everybody right now just wants to talk about cycling.
“The image of cycling has changed. Cyclists are household names now, they are now thrown around like AFL names.
“10 years ago people didn’t even realise this event was in town – you’d talk to them and they’d say they noticed a few more cyclists around town but that’s it.”
Mr Liggett even rode around the Mt Buninyong circuit yesterday so he can be prepared for Sunday.
Brian Love from Geelong has often travelled to watch the main event on the Sunday, but this year decided to make the trip for the criterium as well.
“There’s a great atmosphere – everyone’s congregating at the pub at the finish line, and the circuit for the cyclists is good too,” Mr Love said.
“What’s great about this race is they’re not going past just once – you can watch for different moves and when and how the cyclists make their attack.”
ORICA GreenEdge cyclist Michael Matthews, who is not participating in the criterium, enjoyed watching yesterday’s events from the Golden City Hotel balcony.