The announcement that Ballarat has secured the Cycling Road Nationals for another three years should delight a lot more than cycling fans.
Quite apart from the businesses that delight at the extra traffic of having hundreds of elite riders and thousands of fans in town, there is a certain prestige that comes from hosting a national event that Ballarat should be proud of.
This city is also a showcase.. In the case of road cycling the facilities are ready made; a wide tree-lined boulevard that ranks amongst the most beautiful in Australia and a compact, tough hill course at Buninyong that delivers excitement and upsets year after year. If a city were to hold it once, it would be a gold star for the city but this is a prestige event that Ballarat has held for over a decade and each year does proud.
Nowhere else in the world is a national championship help in the same place year after year and ( sprinters criticisms aside) no where should be more proud of what we continue to hold here. Like the even more prestigious World Road Championships these events are as bitterly and fiercely contested as any elite sporting events. But this year, despite well-credentialed host cities like Geelong, Canberra and Adelaide being speculatively in the mix, Ballarat has shown by its reputation a proven capacity to not only host the event but ensure the excitement continues for three more years. It has again confirmed it is a more than capable host for high profile sporting events but also something of a confirmed centre for cycle sports.
When Governments are backing big events like the Road Nationals, now with a new community involvement focus, and pitching even bigger cash at facilities, like making Creswick a mountain bike mecca, you begin to understand how renown for healthy and exciting activities can transform a location.
The Courier has maintained many times that the timing of the Road Nationals is perfect. Adelaide with its more prestige Tour Down Under swelters at the start of the UCI world tour calendar under a blazing South Australian summer. By contrast Ballarat is at its best, if sunny then not racing in debilitating heat.
Perhaps even more significantly for all locals, the event has successfully transformed a week in January in Ballarat from sleepy summer town half empty after a summer exodus to the only place to be.