Yesterday the Goulburn to Sydney should have been run and should have been won. Owing to the last minute cancellation in the name of rider safety, however, there was no celebrating. The events leading up to the cancellation of the Goulburn to Sydney remain murky, with the timelines provided by key stakeholders involved in the running of the event not quite adding up.
According to a variety of sources, it was made abundantly clear to Cycling Australia (CA) that anything other than a rolling road closure and the teams would not race. Drapac Cycling director Agostino Giramondo told Cyclingnews that that was certainly his understanding of the events.
"I said to them [Cycling Australia] at the forum in January, 'I don't care if I've paid for flights, I don't care if I've got accommodation. I could be on the start line and paid for a meal the night before and breakfast that morning, if I get to the start-line and the race goes down the highway, we're pulling out and going home.'"
Cycling Australia National Manager Sean Muir confirmed this in January in an interview with Ride Cycling Review when he said that "the teams made it very clear that it's a rolling road closure, or a fully closed road, or nothing."
Cyclingnews put a number of questions to Cycling Australia over why they had planned for the race to go ahead without a rolling road closure as sought by teams and what communication had existed between parties over the status of the race. Muir responded by stating that CA had been doing their utmost to secure a rolling road closure but were essentially at a dead end.
"The aim of the race organisers, Cycling NSW and Cycling Australia was to ensure that a quality event was implemented, catering for the safety of riders and commercial needs of sponsors involved," said Muir. "Efforts have been made since October 2012 to ensure the organisers and local authorities were aware of the safety concerns, and that all alternative options were investigated."
When asked by Cyclingnews about his recollection of events, however, Goulburn to Sydney Race Director Michael Gleeson believes he was not made aware of the requirement for rolling road closures until April 2013, haff a year later than CA claim.
"We only really heard about it [rolling road closures] at a meeting with Cycling Australia in April this year," he explained.
On a different note, locals have been left lamenting what many saw as an opportunity to improve upon the race by using sections of roads running parallel to the Hume Hwy instead of the national carriageway. This would have lengthened the race out to around 220km and added more interesting terrain to the parcours.
"All possible options were discussed, and investigated with local authorities and race organisers," explained Muir. "Unfortunately utilising back roads, to avoid racing along the freeway did not have the support of local authorities. This was due to the condition of the roads, including the width and surface quality of some of the roads that would be used."
Team managers consulted by Cyclingnews highlighted that the biggest let down over the Goulburn cancellation revolved around the lack of communication between CA and participating teams. Some teams were left pondering why it was not made clear to them that the race was not going to be going ahead as a rolling road closure whilst entry money was being accepted, and whilst accommodation and flights were being booked.
From a team perspective, Giramondo claimed that Drapac had heard nothing from CA despite the thin ice the race was skating on.
"Well, apart from our discussion at nationals early in January, there hasn't been a discussion," said Giramondo.
Muir acknowledged that communication from CA had fallen short.
"We cannot dispute that communication to teams about this event has been poor, and this is a matter that we recognise and must work to improve upon to avoid a repeat in future," agreed Muir. "Due to the ongoing uncertainty around the route and road closures the information to teams (and the wider racing community) was not acceptable. This situation allowed for speculation and misinformation which was most unfortunate. Despite this we still believe that, although the late timing was not ideal, the best decision was made in interests of rider safety to cancel the race."
And with admitted poor communication on CA's behalf, some teams that have been left out of pocket are wondering, why then, should they bear the costs? If they knew that the race was going ahead down the Hume Hwy without a rolling road closure as protested against, they would not have put plans -and money- in motion to travel to the race in the first place.
As Giramondo explains, the situation was indeed dogmatic for those intending to race.
"One of the teams I spoke to –which is not a high profile team- I just asked him I said 'are you going to Goulburn?' And he said 'yes.'
"I said 'you know it's on the highway?' And he said 'no, we're not going, if you're telling me it's on the highway, we're not going.'"
But on the note of who should bear the costs, CA were unclear in giving an answer.
"Cancelling the Goulburn to Sydney is not an ideal situation for all parties involved," said Muir. "The teams and riders who had already booked their travel and accommodation, the race organisers who have got within two weeks of implementing the event, Cycling NSW losing a major event from their calendar and the wider cycling community losing a piece of Australia's cycling history. However, we value the safety of the riders racing in the NRS above all else and it was with this in mind that the final decision was made."
And on the note of safety, Muir and Giramondo are in furious agreement.
"At the end of the day, I'm not here to blame anyone, all I want is safety for the riders … my main concern as a DS is the safety of my riders and that I'm not going to compromise for anybody," said Giramondo.