A BIGGER, better nationals festival is what Cycling Australia promised us.
We got a clearer gauge of what bigger, better could mean this week when Cycling Australia unveiled its road national championships schedule for Ballarat and Buninyong in January.
This has so much exciting potential, but, we need to fulfill our end of the bargain and prove to all those cities clamouring to snatch the titles away why the sport’s national governing body has invested so much faith in us.
We need to show up and be heard, make our presence felt.
Cycling Australia has shuffled our five-day carnival to a Friday night criterium start, leading straight into the nationals’ feature piece – the road race with our notorious Mount Buninyong climbs – that weekend.
This is what CA general manager sport Kipp Kaufman has called an “attractive package” for the city and championships to capitalise on getting more people to visit the city and stay here longer.
We could say this is a big bang, all major action and all at once, with greater opportunity to move on community events and the electric carnival vibe about town.
Like the championships or not, this is a massive chance to showcase the best of Ballarat.
And we can not do this in a lukewarm, semi-interested kinda way.
The championships undoubtedly draw a big entourage among teams and die-hard cycling fans from across the state and nation. This is bigger than a Ballarat event.
This is a crowd that travels. Most will be move across the border two day after time trials are finished here for the 11-day Tour Down Under, then back to Geelong by January’s end for the Cadel Evans Road Race – both UCI World Tour events with top international contenders.
These events might have the resources to go far bigger than our nationals, but this does not stop cycling enthusiasts from comparing us with them. There are expectations and the vibe in the city is a big one.
Why Sturt Street shops are not open later on criterium has long created a brow furrow among perplexed out-of-towners. To them, it feels a little ghost-townish.
Those shops that do stay open, do an awesome job. There are stall sales and carnival-themed grab-and-go foodie options, even new Il Piccolo Gelato flavours made in a tilt to cycling’s Italian popularity.
Now is the time to really think bigger.
We want to show everyone in town what a Ballarat street party really feels like.
We know we can do big events – importantly big street-based events (think White Night) so well. You need not have to be a cycling fan for a good excuse to see experience Sturt Street from a fun, new perspective.
Cycling Australia has flagged this schedule shuffle clear in advance. While we are staying tuned for the finer details on community-based activities, we still have seven months’ notice to really capitalise on how we want a bumper cycling weekend to feel in the home of Australian road cycling. We want visitors and locals to have no doubt this is a city with great diverse culture – sport is not an exclusive factor.