Australia’s National Road Series returns after COVID-19 pandemic interruptions

Santos Festival of Cycling
The NRS started wth the Santos Festival of Cycling in 2021, which included Team BikeExchange and a national team among the usual domestic squads, and will again in 2022 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Australia’s heavily interrupted National Road Series (NRS) will manage to get in one last event before the 2021 season closes, breaking a six-month hiatus in the nation’s top domestic racing series.

The have been repeated COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in some parts of Australia and border restrictions put in place between states and territories, which has had a heavy impact on the race calendar. The last NRS event able to go ahead was the Grafton to Inverell in May.

“Six events were postponed or cancelled this year and the riders missed a lot of racing, but 2022 is looking like a huge year for the National Road Series,” AusCycling event operations manager Adam Power said in a statement.

As vaccination rate targets are being met and COVID-19 related restrictions easing, the path opened for the Cycle Sunshine Coast to be scheduled for December 17-19, when the Queensland border is set to be open again. It will be the fourth National Road Series event in 2021, with the Santos Festival of Cycling starting the racing in January, then the Melbourne to Warrnambool, which is part of the men's NRS, running on May 1 after being postponed at the last minute in February due to a snap lockdown in Victoria. The other long-range event on the calendar, the Grafton to Inverell, went ahead a week later on May 8.

The pause after the Grafton to Inverell left Australia’s domestically-based riders with little top level racing in 2021– while some states also faced local race freezes due to lockdowns. If the Queensland event hadn't been squeezed in before the end of the year Australian-based riders would have faced up to an important block of racing  against the Australian professional riders returning home from Europe with the added disadvantage of not having had any NRS races for seven months.

“Not only does Cycle Sunshine Coast give riders a final event to finish 2021, it also provides high-level racing prior to the Road National Championships in January,” Power added.

The final NRS event for the year includes a criterium on the evening of Friday 17 December, a road race on the Saturday and another on Sunday, which is also followed by a time trial. After that the Australia's Road National Championships is the next big event on the calendar, running from January 12 to 16.

The National Road Series will then start its 2022 season with the Santos Festival of Cycling, which for a second year will be replacing the cancelled international racing with a domestic event. The four-stage women's race runs from January 23 to 26 while the men’s event runs from January 26 to 29.

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