There will be spectators at this year's AusCycling Road National Championships, but details about how they'll be managed to keep things COVID-safe are still being finalised.
At Thursday's media launch for the 2021 races, City of Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney joked the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services was suddenly one of the event's biggest supporters.
"The state government's always been a massive backer, but even more so this time because we actually need DHHS to play a major role, to make sure this is a COVID-safe event," he said.
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"We appreciate that a massive amount of extra work goes into this because we're still living in a COVD world."
The event is planned to begin on February 3, with two days of time trials through the challenging Federation University course which debuted last year.
The Friday night criteriums up and down Sturt Street will also return - AusCycling's sport general manager Kipp Kaufmann said safety upgrades installed on Lyons Street might slow cyclists down a bit, but technical experts were happy they were safe for cyclists.
On Saturday and Sunday, the road races will take over Mount Buninyong, and Mr Kaufmann confirmed there will be some restrictions for spectators, particularly on the mountain.
"We're just finalising some details, but we are going to limit people up the climb, we're looking at ways to book in instead of having thousands of people walking up and down," he said.
"We also won't be activating the climb like we've done in the past with the big screen, we'll move that over to the university where there's more room and you can spread people out."
The Zwift cycling challenge, which was a popular post-crits event in Ballarat's CBD, won't run this year, but the community movie night will definitely go ahead.
The Gran Fondo mass participation ride will return for a time trial on Wednesday and a road race on Saturday - pre-release tickets have already sold out, Mr Kaufmann said, though other community rides through the town will still go ahead.
AusCycling's chief executive, Steve Drake, said there will be more opportunities to watch online and on TV, with live broadcasting in Australia and the race being shown internationally on the Global Cycling Network.
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Lists of riders who will be participating are still being finalised, with some waiting for more detail on interstate quarantine arrangements.
"Some riders are still working out what it will mean for them, some BikeExchange (formerly GreenEDGE Cycling) team members are in WA, so what does that mean on a return versus getting here, and will that happen in time," Mr Kaufmann said.
"I think within all of the parameters we're looking good, certainly some athletes won't be able to come, but anyone who is here, from a performance standpoint, any of the major athletes have prepared themselves to get here in time, and they still do have time.
"What we've found is some riders have made the decision to stay overseas, it's been a tough year, and quarantining coming back, all of those things, they've made that decision.
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"Some great athletes have come back, and they're probably happy for it because they're able to race instead of being locked down in Europe.
"I think we'll see some different fields but we'll see some quality winners."
Keep an eye on the RoadNats website and The Courier for more information on road closures, team lists, and community events.
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