Every year tens of thousands gather on the slopes of Mount Buninyong to witness one of Australia’s premier sporting events – the Cycling Australia Road Nationals.
Some of the biggest names in worldwide sport have battled each other for the national crown on one of Ballarat’s treasured natural features, and for many – regardless of whether they are cyclists, cycling fans, locals or visitors – the Road Nationals are a perfect way to embrace the New Year.
While it is one of Ballarat’s most coveted sporting events, the nationals offer something more than just entertainment, with its capacity to transform Ballarat and Buninyong into a mass of excitement and activity during a typically sleepy time of the year almost unparalleled.
Ballarat Regional Tourism chief executive Noel Dempsey said it also provides an opportunity to showcase local cafes, restaurants and accommodation providers.
“You don’t have to be a national champion to enjoy Ballarat’s outdoors in summer,” he said.
“We’re seeing whole families visit Ballarat for RoadNats. They’re watching and participating in the cycling events, they’re visiting attractions and eating in the local cafes and restaurants.
“This is an event that provides great benefit for the whole community.”
The 2017 Road Nationals – running from January 4-8 – will kick off with the ever-popular criterium along Sturt Street, with thousands expected to watch the world’s hottest young sprinter in Caleb Ewan.
Thursday’s time trail for under-23 men and women and elite men and women is one for the purists, however, there’s no reason families can’t gather for a pleasant stroll along Buninyong-Mt Mercer Road.
The championships really heat up over the weekend with the road races around Buninyong’s famed circuit, while the Gran Fondo Championship proved popular in its maiden 2016 appearance.
The event allows amateur, age-group and recreational riders to participate on the world class circuit and precedes the under-23 women’s and elite women’s races.
But it’s the elite men’s race which catches all the attention, with close to 30,000 likely to stand five deep along Mt Buninyong and provide a spectacle the likes of which is rarely seen outside of the Tour de France.
The last three editions have provided entertainment of the highest calibre, from Jack Bobridge’s amazing time trial to victory in 2016 to Henrich Haussler’s stunning upset over Ewan the year prior, to the 2014 race that will stand the test of time, when Simon Gerrans bested the legendary Cadel Evans.
Mount Buninyong is quite simply a place where history is made, and rest assured, the best is yet to come.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.