National body also announces takeover of Caribou Publications’ Scody Cup events
Cycling Australia announced on Friday that the agreement for Victorian regional centre Ballarat to host the Australian Road National Championships has been extended for a further two years.
The historical city has been home to the titles since 2007 and will continue to be until at least 2015 after a six-year deal was initially signed from the 2010 event onwards.
This year's men's road race was considered to be the best ever, won by Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) with international competitors denied a start at the event for the first time. Crowds were estimated at the 20,000 mark and the men's race was televised live for the first time. Race director John Craven has been adamant in his push for Ballarat to become the permanent home of the Championships, just like many other sporting events on the Australian calendar remain unmoved such at the the Melbourne Cup as part of the Spring Racing Carnival, and the Australian Open Tennis.
"We are delighted to continue our association with Ballarat which has been a major partner in the development of the road nationals over the past decade," said Cycling Australia CEO, Graham Fredericks in a media release.
The move will no doubt disappoint some riders with Mark Renshaw, along with a host of Australia's top sprinters including the now-retired Robbie McEwen and Graeme Brown arguing in the past that the current course - with a near-three kilometre climb at a gradient of 10 per cent - raced over 16 laps favours certain types of riders.
The announcement also signalled Cycling Australia's Commercial and Event team's takeover of five of Craven's Scody Cup events, encompassing the Tour of Gippsland, Tour of the Murray River, Tour of Tasmania, Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic and Shipwreck Coast Classic, which runs as a part of the National Road Series calendar from 2013.
The format of the Scody Cup series has drawn criticism for its criterium-heavy format with several teams opting out of the Tour of the Murray River event in 2011 due to safety concerns. Around 20 crashes involving close to 60 riders marred the opening stages of the event, raced on pan-flat roads and subject to cross-winds.
Cyclingnews asked Craven at the time if Caribou Publications was currently up for sale and if the added publicity from criterium racing makes the Scody Cup a more attractive asset.
Admitting that he has had several offers to buy the business over the last few years, Craven said that Caribou Publications would have to go to someone with the interests of the development of the sport in Australia at heart.
"I would only consider it if the right person came along and I believe that that person can continue the creative work that we've started," he revealed.
The NRS is set for an overhaul next season with new guidelines in the works for both entrants and events with Cycling Australia keen to see the Series racing under the one banner.
Craven remains a member of the Cycling Australia Road Commission.
"I am also pleased to announce that in recognition of John's tireless service to the sport, and in particular domestic racing, we will be introducing the 'John Craven Shield', a perpetual trophy to be awarded annually to the winning team of the Subaru National Road Series," said Fredericks.
"Cycling has been a major part of my life for more than 40 years and during that time I have been privileged to witness some of the sport's most fierce battles and watched as talented youngsters developed into champions," said Mr Craven. "I am honoured to have my name on the shield presented to the champion team of the national series because I believe the series is the breeding ground of our future legends."