Welcome to The Courier’s day one coverage of the Cycling Australia Road National Championships.
Road closures are in place until late this evening around Sturt Street, but there’s plenty of shade available to check out the athletes in action.
Braving 30 degree-plus heat this morning, the under 19 men and women, Ashlee Jones won the women’s race, and Ballarat’s Jesse Norton took out the men’s.
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Race director Scott McGrory, at the half-way point, said he was happy with how the event was progressing.
“The weather forecast was for extreme temperatures, which was my biggest concern today – it has been hot but it hasn’t been too bad,” he said.
“In terms of spectators, it’s maybe not the most comfortable of conditions, but it’s made it really tough racing, and I don’t mind that, so it should be for the National Championships.”
A new feature, the fixed gear race, was won by Melbourne’s Hal Hunter in the men’s and Catalina Soto in the womens, with brakeless velodrome-style bikes charging uphill in immense heat.
Hunter, 45th in the world, said the format had plenty of promise.
“It’s really exciting that it’s starting to pick up here, and hopefully it’s a good showcase for anyone who wants to get rid of the gears and brakes and have some fun,” he said.
“When the course was announced, there were a few question marks from all of the riders about whether it was suitable or not - the gearing restricts any sort of gradient in the course.
“I ran a 48-15 (gear), usually I’d run a 48-14 in a flat crit, but I went a bit easier.”
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Soto, from Chile, said the conditions were difficult.
“The uphill kills you, and it’s hard because you can’t have water,” she said.
“It’s so fun, and around the world, you race the Red Hook Crit and in the US - it’d be nice to hopefully encourage a lot more women and men to race, it’s not hard, like a road bike but you use your legs more.”
Spectators on the course were feeling the heat as the club team crits approached.
Tasmania’s Jessie Sawyer, racing in the elite criterium in the evening, joked she might have to find some air conditioning in a shopping centre to help prepare.
“It’s not an ideal course for it, you need a few more corners for ducking and weaving,” she said.
“I’d like to do it, but not if I’m racing a couple of hours later.”
Raymond Orr, from Adelaide, was holding the fort under a gazebo after his daughter, Katarina Chung-Orr, raced in the under 19s - her first senior RoadNats.
“She got fifth, which is pretty good for this sort of course,” he said, beaming.
“I’m looking forward to the under 23s, that’ll be a cracker, then the elite women to see what the future holds for women’s cycling.”
The popular club team criteriums have featured riders of all ages, with winners from across Australia, including Manly-Warringah and St Kilda cycling clubs.
Zoe Bright and Rae Lesniowska, from Hawthorn Cycling Club, made it to the podium, but it looked like the race had taken everything from them.
“It felt like 50 degrees, in a fan-forced oven” Lesniowska said.
“It was enjoyable once we got to down about six laps to go, counting down made it doable,” Bright added.
“It’s a good atmosphere, even though it’s sweltering.”
After three podium finishes the past three years, Victorian cyclist Brenton Jones won the national criterium crown.
While there's a new king on the throne, the Queen of 2018 – Rebecca Wiasak – served up the royal treatment to win back-to-back elite women's titles.
Check out all our coverage on the crits so far:
A great introduction to what criterium racing’s all about.
The crits are the most accessible races for spectators, whether it’s the excitement at the finish line or the furious downhill turn at Lydiard Street.
There’s quite a few Ballarat locals in the RoadNats, including the White brothers and last year’s road race winner Shannon Malseed.
Feel like a coffee? Support Sturt Street’s many eateries and shops, some of which will be open late.
There’s heaps of things to do in Ballarat this weekend – stick around for live music in the park on Sunday.