THERE is a far bigger deal than anyone appears to be letting on about to unfold in Cycling Australia Road National Championships criterium.
Elite women will ride last.
In a sporting context, this is prime time. This is the main event. This is top billing or, really, equal billing.
This is an incredibly huge step forward for women's sport in a championships that had the women riding on a separate day to men for the elite road race stripes in Buninyong five years ago. Super Sunday, with back-to-back elite racing, was created for the 2016 championships largely to introduce a national Gran Fondo on the Saturday.
There should be far greater fanfare for this year's Sturt Street scheduling.
Plenty of positive vibes have been bubbling for the introduction of title-racing for people with intellectual disability to this year's RoadNats scheduling - and rightfully so.
It took years for para-cyclists' national showdowns to join RoadNats. They finally got a start in Ballarat two years ago with road racing out pretty much amid the tumbleweeds in Cardigan. Para-cyclists were barred from taking on the Buninyong climb - the jewel of the championships, the notorious hurdle needed to conquer - until last summer.
Just as leading para-cyclists like Carol Cooke promised, hits was about opportunity to prove what was possible. Every para-racer has a personal battle to overcome on course - and really this is no different to an elite.
Our top para-cyclists wanted to feel the Buninyong village and for those at the finish line during the championships it was an incredible, celebratory vibe.
Now, in the 17th time Ballarat has hosted RoadNats this century, elite women get a massive opportunity.
This is not about proving they are better than the elite male riders, nor in vying to be a bigger draw card for the criteriums. This is about gender equality and showing the main event is interchangeable.
For far too long in sport, females have been an accepted part of the build-up to the top guys being on show.
For too long, there has been a general acceptance male sport is simply always better.
Sports entertainment juggernaut WWE completely shook-up this notion with its top female athletes to 'main event' WrestleMania last April. A massive statement from a company previously known more for putting female models in the ring in suggested convenience break scheduling.
Interestingly when it came to golf giants at Augusta four months later, the whole mention of a women's professional event at the prestigious club had members blanching and hiding green jackets. This was in the wake of a successful Augusta women's amateur tournament that generated plenty of pats on the back for inclusion-well-done.
You could argue the field in the women's cycling criterium field might be smaller, despite adding in the women's under-23 contenders.
Elite women, like the para-cyclists in Buninyong, should have a real taste of the electric evening vibe for the Sturt Street criterium. They deserve greater build-up and billing.
Women should have the right to make their own mark - then see what happens.
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