• Joe Cooper was the victor at the 2015 Battle on the Border (Veloshotz)Source: Veloshotz
Another National Road Series (NRS) event, the men’s Battle on the Border is off the calendar for 2016, taking the total number of NRS races cancelled or postponed this year to five.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

Cycling Central
1 Mar 2016 - 12:49 PM 

Just two weeks ago, Battle on the Border race director, Mike Crawley, was confident of holding the men’s event. Over the weekend, a few teams pulled out leaving the men's race financially unviable.

“We were at a stage where we were just going to break even this year. The tipping point was on Sunday when three teams pulled out. Then you have to ask if it’s worth shutting down a whole area, and the logistics that go with that," he said. 

Teams had been placed in the tough position of having to fund trips from the other side of the country to Northern NSW/QLD for that time of the year, with only the promise of two events after the Tour of Toowoomba postponed its race for 2016. 

Now, the Grafton to Inverell stands alone, which organisers moved specifically to form a racing block with Battle on the Border and Tour of Toowoomba.

Peter Sunderland, on the racing committee for the Crowe Horwath Grafton to Inverell has confirmed it would proceed this year. This is gratifying news for teams and fans, as the start of racing for the men's NRS would have been pushed back to June.

It was always going to be harder for the Battle on the Border organisers to run a profit, with the NRS event moving to become a standalone event after safety concerns last season, when it was part of the larger festival of cycling.

The good news is the bigger (and more profitable) part of Battle on the Border will still be run, with the women's NRS now to take lone centre stage as the elite racing on show. There is a potential for the return of the men's event for next year, contingent on numbers.

“We’re pencilling in a return for next year with a full field of teams and about 140 riders” Crawley said. 

The news comes as a bitter blow to the NRS, with the bad news snowballing currently to make the sport less attractive, for race organisers, teams and sponsors alike.

This begs the question of what might have been, if the promised Cycling Australia review of the NRS had been completed expeditiously when announced in June last year. Instead the process has been slow to get under way, with it taking until January to start the review. What has eventuated is the continued loss of races, with a corresponding drop in confidence of stakeholders throughout the country.

The NRS is important for fostering an environment for the development of future stars and a healthy racing culture within Australia. The question is now, how much more bad news can it sustain before sponsors and teams look elsewhere in the future.