New format for 25th Mitchelton Bay Classic

Organisers of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic series that traditionally kicks off the Australian summer season will take a leaf out of their peers at the Majorca Challenge for next year's 25th edition by not making it compulsory for riders to race every day.

There will still be an overall classification for those who race in all of the four criteriums making up the January 2 to 5 series in Victoria, which starts in the Geelong-Bellarine region and finishes in the western Melbourne suburb of Williamstown.

But now riders in the men's and women's series will also be able to pick and choose which races they want to start in – likewise for their teams, if they want to change their line-ups to suit certain courses.

Why the change in format?

Series organiser John Trevorrow is confident that the change will be for the better, even though the series that was first held in 1989, and next year celebrates its 25th edition, has long been popular among riders and fans for its lightening fast racing

"We are trying to encourage it to be known more as four one day races, even though there will still be an overall series winner," Trevorrow told Cyclingnews. "That way teams can change their riders around for different events which they couldn't do in the past.

"It's about coming up with some fresh ideas for the event. It's about putting more emphasis on each day. That will probably change the prize money structure too – put more into each day.

"It should also help us get some really big names in the sport who might only ride one day which wasn't an option before. It's also the 25th running of the event, so we want to celebrate that."

Next year's series will also have events for junior for men and women, masters and a corporate challenge. What won't change is equal prize money for men and women.

"I am very proud of the growth of the women's series and the fact that we were the first race in the world to offer equal prize money to women," Trevorrow said.

Leaving a legacy

The series has had an important role in changing the way cycling is presented in Australia. "Cycling races in Australia were predominantly track racing in the summer and road racing in the winter," he said.

"But I realised that we needed to move some events around to allow our budding stars on the European scene to be able to race in front of their home crowds.

"The only race that Phil Anderson ever raced in Australia from the day he turned professional in 1980 until his retirement in the mid-90s was the Bay Classic."

The series also presented Trevorrow with his first sighting of a certain Cadel Evans. "It was a 'Bay Crit' in Geelong in 1996 when he was only about 17," Trevorrow recalled. "A group of half a dozen, including Robbie McEwen had broken clear and were in the process of lapping the field.

"Then this skinny kid jumped clear on his own and proceeded to lap the field on his own. I turned to the guy next to me, who happened to be Dave Sanders, and asked who is this young bloke.

"'Davo' said his name is Cadel and he's a mountain biker. I remember wondering what a Cadel was and thinking he was a bit more than just a mountain biker."

Dates: Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic series

January 2 - Race 1: Richie Boulevarde, Geelong
January 3 - Race 2: Eastern Gardens, Geelong
January 4 - Race 3: Portarlington
January 5 - Race 4: Williamstown

*Rupert Guinness is a sports writer on The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media).

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Rupert Guinness first wrote on cycling at the 1984 Victorian road titles in Australia from the finish line on a blustery and cold hilltop with a few dozen supporters. But since 1987, he has covered 26 Tours de France, as well as numerous editions of the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana, classics, world track and road titles and other races around the world, plus four Olympic Games (1992, 2000, 2008, 2012). He lived in Belgium and France from 1987 to 1995 writing for Winning Magazine and VeloNews, but now lives in Sydney as a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media) and contributor to Cyclingnews and select publications.

An author of 13 books, most of them on cycling, he can be seen in a Hawaiian shirt enjoying a drop of French rosé between competing in Ironman triathlons.