• Simon Gerrans, Miles Scotson and Nathan Haas. (Cycling Australia)Source: Cycling Australia
Cycling Australia has put on a united front, announcing a new naming rights sponsor for the Road National Championships in the wake of heavy criticism over a revised high-performance approach.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
3 Oct 2017 - 2:02 PM 

Federation University Australia has secured a three-year deal from 2018, replacing Mars as title sponsor of the event that will see subtle road race course changes slowly implemented over the term. 

Cycling Australia chairman Steve Bracks, CEO Nick Green and other dignitaries were in Melbourne Tuesday morning to announce the partnership with the regional tertiary institute. 

“The Cycling Australia Road National Championships is one of the premier events on the cycling calendar, and it takes place right on the doorstep of FedUni’s Mt Helen Campus at Ballarat,” Bracks said.

“It makes sense for us to work together, not just for the university’s proximity to the famous Mt Buninyong circuit, but also because of FedUni’s renowned sports science program and excellent sports training facilities.”

A major commercial partner, as well as a safety advocacy partner, are also due to be announced, with a broadcast deal still in negotiation.

The sponsorships will surely boost Cycling Australia’s coffers, but the addition of under-19 and para titles to the championships will see that countered with increased costs.

Sprinters predominately have long argued the course for the national road race championships should be changed annually – as most other nations observe – to provide title opportunities to a greater array of riders.

Winners in recent times have come from solo escapes or reduced bunch kicks.

Cycling Central understands the marquee Mt Buninyong climb will remain a permanent fixture in road races, but variations are likely to be made around that.

Green said recently appointed general manager of sport Kipp Kaufmann has been in consultation with elite riders including Mathew Hayman and Kimberley Wells over future designs.

“With the inclusion of the under-19 and para-cyclists into it we need to have a whole lot of considerations about different courses for different riders, environments and timing,” Green said.

“I think what we’ve said is that we want to continue to refresh the course. I think for next year you’ll see some improvements, maybe more subtle improvements, with a view then of continuing to evolve for 2019 and 2020.

“We hear maybe the minority of the cyclists don’t like it because it’s not suited to their riding ability and we get that. Having the championships in the one location for a long time, some athletes feel like are not capable of winning because of their skillsets,” he continued.

“However, history will tell you endurance riders and sprinters have both come away with the national jersey - male and female.

“I think the course is one suited to anyone really.”

Cycling Australia is trying to put the controversy over its selection for teams that competed at the UCI Road World Championships in Norway behind it.

Wide-scale changes are set to be made under new high-performance director Simon Jones, who has a vision to Tokyo 2020 and restoring the nation to gold medal glory partly through underquoting teams for road and track world titles throughout the Olympic cycle.

The federation gave a taste of this in the lead-up to Norway, initially selecting just five elite women, over a full quota, for the road race.

Rachel Neylan and Chloe Hosking both won appeals to compete in a review that some believed undermined Jones’s strategy.

However, the Briton appears to have the support of administration ahead of next season.

“We have a new high-performance strategy we’re implementing; itis backed by myself and the board and we have engaged Simon because we knew we needed to make some changes,” Green said.

“We’re not going to be popular but we’re committed to making the tough decisions because we know that’s going to have the best impact longer term.”