IT was billed as the biggest day in Ballarat sport since the 1956 Olympics and it lived up to the hype. The 2014 Road Nationals culminated in the men's elite road race and, as the outcome showed, it was the very elite who graced the podium.
Not only was the outcome a display of great athleticism by the cream of Australian cycling but it is hard to imagine a sporting event that has better captured the festival atmosphere. Buninyong looked superb in the sunshine, whether you were enjoying the race on-site or watching on national television. The 23,000 strong crowd was a runaway boon for traders and the coverage displayed Ballarat to great advantage to one of the largest audiences it has yet experienced.
Whether for its reputation to hold high-profile events, as a promising tourist destination or even raising the possibility as a future home, Ballarat has risen a notch in the public imagination and that is a triumph that resonates far beyond the sport. For those who love cycling to have some of the world's best performing in our own backyard must have been a proud moment.
Simon Gerrans, the boy from Mansfield, the worthy captain of Australia's first pro tour team, was a great winner but to have a legend like Cadel Evans fight it out to the finish line was the icing on a glorious cake.
He showed himself to be a true world-class sportsman by putting in such an aggressive effort when his status could have made it easy for him to treat it as little more than a training ride.
Full credit must also go to the organisers and to all those involved in the coverage, in particular the "voice of cycling" Phil Liggett, who is not only tireless in his enthusiastic promotion of the sport but never misses an opportunity to sing the praises of the region .
There will always be a minority of grumblers about having too many people in town and those who even begrudge the money spent in securing an event of this calibre but The Courier believes this is the perfect example of a sound and forward thinking investment.
Ballarat's hold on this great event may be secure for the next couple of years but now is the time for the city to do the planning and even consider digging deeper to ensure it can match any of the competition it is likely to face in the fierce arena of event lobbying.