The women's road race world championship race may kick off earlier than originally scheduled due to a conflict with an Australian Rules Football match.
Last Saturday's AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and St. Kilda ended in the first draw in 33 years, making the previously remote possibility of an overlap between the two events this coming Saturday a reality.
The football match is expected to draw upwards of 100,000 fans to the pitch in Melbourne, while the world championship race in neighboring Geelong was anticipated to attract 50,000 spectators.
While the overlap between football and cycling fans is likely not huge, race organiser Michael Palmer told the Geelong Advertiser he felt sick when he realized that the nightmare scenario of an overlap would materialize.
"While it might have an impact on the crowd numbers, I don't think we're suddenly going to go from 50,000 to zero," Palmer said. "Instead of 50,000 we might have 47,000 or 45,000.
"It's just more about the publicity. Our media partners have been very good, but of course the replay is going to be the biggest game, media-wise, in history, probably."
The start of the women's race may be moved 30 minutes earlier to put the finish in the middle of the football match's first quarter, but former Australian national champion Birdie O'Donnell wasn't happy with that solution, and wants the start moved even earlier so that there will be no overlap between the finale of the women's race and the replay of the AFL grand final.
''I don't know if this clash is damaging, but it makes me feel very dismayed, because it is hard enough to get cycling in general in the papers, let alone women's cycling. People, when they think of cycling, think of the Tour de France and men's elite cycling. I had my hopes that this was a really wonderful opportunity where people could visualise and witness excellent work. Like any race, men's or women's, everything happens in the last half-an-hour," O'Donnell said to The Age.
Palmer said that moving the women's race any earlier than 30 minutes before its original start time would be too disruptive. ''We still need to have a couple of meetings, but it's a five-day world championship and the program has already been set. A lot of people are coming from interstate and overseas, we don't want to make too many changes.''
Vennell out sick, Bauer steps in
New Zealand's national road champion Jack Bauer has been called up to substitute for Jeremy Vennell, who fell ill last week, in the men's elite time trial world championship.
Bauer, who has been riding for the Endura Pro Continental team in Europe, will use the event to prepare for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where he is expected to be a prominent hope in the men’s road race.