Cycling championships putting Ballarat on centre stage

THERE are very few examples of events in Ballarat attracting as much national attention as the annual Road National Cycling Championships.

It is the sixth consecutive year Ballarat has hosted the event and the interest it generates has rapidly grown.

While the sport of cycling has been enveloped in drugs controversies at national and international level, organisers claim the most stringent of testing programs is in place.

The quality fields which grace our streets and roads during the next few days is truly world-class.

The media exposure will be significant, on a local, state, national and international stage.

Despite the controversies which have marred the elite levels, cycling is behind only soccer in popularity in Europe. 

The impact of Australian cycling – notably Cadel Evans’ win in the 2011 Tour de France – means our national road championships has significant international resonance.

And the work done to change and expand the championships, including the addition of Amy’s Ride on Sunday, will enhance Ballarat’s growing reputation as a cycling-friendly city.

Yet hosting the championships is not without challenges.

Streets and road closures began yesterday, provoking angry responses to The Courier from some residents and business owners. 

Similar debate has resounded in Buninyong in recent years due to disruption of access to businesses.

Organisers and the City of Ballarat should take on board suggestions from those aggrieved in order to reduce disruption but such complaints should not distract city leaders from maintaining a commitment to the bigger picture.

That picture is of Ballarat becoming Australia’s home of professional and community cycling. 

It is about developing the city’s transport and recreational facilities around a cycling culture, like designated bike paths, lanes and bike hire. It is healthy, active and family-friendly – all traits we would love to be the brand of Ballarat’s future.

The economic benefits to accommodation and service providers will be there for the city to see tonight when the criteriums set alight Sturt Street. Expect to see thousands of people lining the streets. 

These are the opportunities that can be developed with an event such as the national championships as a catalyst. Let’s hope Ballarat can continue to build the vision.