THIS is about the climb.
Nationals has long-drawn frustration, admiration and determination from among Australia’s elite cyclists about the climb.
The course itself has been tinkered with to keep Mount Buninyong a feature while setting the stage for a more technical even race. Sprinters are happier.
But Australia’s para-cycling community has long just wanted the chance to take it on.
Now is their chance.
Cycling Australia Road National Championships action will feature para-cycling road race title events on Mount Buninyong on Saturday for the first time.
Para-cyclists was introduced to share the RoadNats program with elite class cyclists last summer, only, para-cycling road race titles were contested in Cardigan. Organisers had deemed out there a more suitable, flatter course for para-athletes who contest their titles in classes of road bikes, handcycles and tricycles.
It is not the same.
Conquering Mount Buninyong is what RoadNats is largely all about. Each year the festival-like feel in the town’s centre kicks up a gear, this summer with an added focus on a sport-art cultural fusion.
Reigning Paralympic road race T1-2 champion Carol Cooke has long been vocal about the rights for para-cyclists to take on the climb the rest of the nation’s cycling community shudders about.
A bunch of para-cyclists were set to prove their ability to tackle the climb in the Gran Fondo Championship last summer, only to have their plans foiled by a heat ruling.
Great to be part of the 2019 FedUni RoadNats launch today in Buninyong! Even rode a couple of laps beforehand. Awesome the ParaCycling is now fully inclusive! @AusCyclingTeam@cyclingvictoria@AUSParalympics@VicInstSport#feduniroadnats2019https://t.co/cVn3t2h1d5— Carol Cooke AM (@CazCooke) October 23, 2018
Cooke and others have argued Buninyong is a realistic ask for para-cyclists, particularly when they are contesting time trials on the challenging Buninyong-Mount Mercer Road. Mount Buninyong, Cooke has said, is a more straightforward matter of cadence.
Cycling Australia promised more community involvement and bigger programs in its latest deal to keep nationals in the City of Ballarat.
A big part of this is encouraging more people, of all ages and ability, to get on their bikes and feel what can be possible, taking on what seems daunting.
Our top para-cyclists are a big part of setting standards and inspiring in what they do best. Just like the elite riders.
The course is varied in laps (depending on classification) and is more similar to the former nationals route, turning down Gear Avenue but going all the way to Geelong Road rather than the old tight turn into Fisken Road.
The climb is the same.
This is where spectators get their best taste of nationals cycling. The climb is a slower, steady test of mental and physical strength. King of the Mountain point, at the climax, is a party-like fixture.
Para-cyclists want a taste of this, the crowds and atmosphere they hear so much about.
Repeat Mount Buninyong climbs create big hurdles for all riders, from elites to the Gran Fondo’s amateur and recreational cyclists. Every rider is pedalling their own goals and mission.
Para-cyclists are no different.
This is what nationals should be about: inspiring each other on the climb.
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