World TT champion calls for more events like Brindabella Challenge
By Anthony Tan in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
He may have only returned from Europe five days ago, he may have woken up on Saturday morning with a head cold, but Michael Rogers wasn't going to miss attending last weekend's Brindabella Challenge, held in his home city of Canberra. The three-time world time trial champion praised the event and its philosophy, which aims to promote the sport on a family rather than purely individual level.
"I would say Australia doesn't really take this sport to people's hearts, it's still not widely accepted," lamented Rogers to Cyclingnews.
"To get that wide acceptance, you really do need to promote the sport at a family level. So the nice thing about these couple of days is that there's something for the whole family; there's not only elite, but kids riding behind a fire truck, weaving through cones... and it's what the sport needs to be accepted as a family sport, which it can be."
While Australia's track cycling facilities are world-class, increasing public liability costs are impacting on many road races at club and open level across the country, forcing the cancellation of many events Rogers used to participate in when he first began cycling at seven years old. The now 25 year-old believes encouraging greater participation is one way of meeting these insurance demands; another is via closed-off circuits, such as Sydney's Heffron Park in the suburb of Maroubra. "Of course, the [local] government has to follow suit," he adds.
"It's not like athletics where the kids are enclosed in the sports arena; unfortunately, we have to go out there and battle with traffic and weather conditions, so I'd like to put it forward to all Australian local governments to open these closed off circuits that families can come along to and where there's no roads and no cars, and kids can cruise around and have fun.
Looking around him, Rogers noted three different disciplines - road, BMX and mountain bike - all taking place within close proximity of one another, as well as a fun ride for small children that both he and two other famous Canberra locals participated in, Oenone Wood and Stephen Hodge. "I started when I was seven, having fun like this, and this is where cycling starts. Here could be our future champions.
"The kids are our future," continued Rogers, "and if cycling wants a strong community, we have to educate our children to ride. Cycling is a positive sport: it's a mode of transport, it promotes healthy living through exercise, and if a nation's healthy, it's usually happy."
Look out for an interview with Michael Rogers soon on Cyclingnews.
More information: www.brindabellachallenge.com.au