The Goulburn to Sydney Cycling Classic was launched on Thursday in Sydney with a celebration of Australian cycling.
The National Road Series event will see riders tackling a flat but often windy 170 kilometre course from Goulburn to Camden, on Sydney's outskirts. A unique event on the Australian National Road Series calendar, the race mixes elite level racing with a sportive team time trial and road race designed to raise money for charity.
The lavish event honoured the history of the race which stretches back to 1902, but was a start contrast to just seven years ago when the race was facing permanent cancellation due to financial problems.
Paul Hillbrick, one of the key pillars of the Macarthur Collegian Cycling Club, the club crucial to race's revival, spoke to Cyclingnews about those dark days, and the encouraging way the Goulburn community rallied to save the race in 2004.
"It’s been great to see the race grow and develop over the last seven years," said Hillbrick. "We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had the support of some great sponsors, particularly early on when the Campbletown Catholic Club essentially underwrote the event financially in the first year or two."
"That was the level of commitment and support that the race has received in the community. [Former Australian rugby union player] Simon Poidevin has also been crucial in re-building the image of the race. Simon put his hand up very early and was really important on bring on corporate support for the race. We wouldn’t be here today without that.
"The loyalty of support is something that’s really great to see. I go back to sponsors every year and it’s almost embarrassing how quickly they want to jump back on board. You feel genuinely humbled."
"It’s been a lot of hard work, from the Macarthur Collegians Cycling Club, from a number of people, but the product is there to see."
Race expansion – crossing the Harbour Bridge?
Hillbrick also re-affirmed plans to expand the race, perhaps to an inner-city finish in the next few years. Though there has been plenty of red-tape to navigate, Hillbrick feels that progress is being made.
"To expand the event further, I certainly subscribe to that saying ‘if you don’t grow you die’. So expansion is certainly on our minds. It’s been very re-assuring when you talk to potential ministers (like Pru Goward) and they understand what needs to be done.
"When you explain that you could run three or four Goulburn to Sydney races for the same cost as ‘turfing’ the Harbour Bridge - for one morning, for breakfast - people quickly get the big picture.
"The event uses existing infrastructure which makes it attractive for the State events body. You don’t need to go and build this or that, it’s all there.
"To bring a bunch over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, like [A Cadel Evans charity ride] did in 2008, that was really something, and it’s certainly a goal of ours for the future."
The Goulburn to Sydney Cycling Classic takes place over the weekend of the 17th and 18th of September. The event kicks off with a short 3.5 kilometre prologue, before racers hit the open road on Sunday for the traditional 170 kilometre road race.