The changes add to what has been a successful format over the past several years in Ballarat. The early evening criteriums have been moved to Friday 4 January, with the road races as normal on the weekend and the time trials to follow on the Monday and Tuesday.
In addition, the elite para-cycling events will be held on the same course as the other races after being raced on a different route within the Ballarat region in 2018.
The city of Ballarat has a contract with Cycling Australia to hold the Road National Championships in the area until 2020, with the local Federation University the naming rights sponsor of the race.
Cycling Central spoke to Cycling Australia’s General Manager for Sport, Kipp Kaufmann, about the announced changes to the format.
“It will be a bit of a different experience from before,” said Kaufmann. “There was a gradual build-up with the excitement of the first day of criteriums and then going through to end with the road race. This time it will be straight into the action on the Friday night and then immediately onto the road races.”
The shift of the schedule will allow for the return of the Bay Criterium Series after the short circuit-based format around Geelong was cancelled for 2018. The race is traditionally held from New Year's Day on, but scheduling conflicts with has seen the race fluctuate in the number of stages before missing out entirely this year.
The normal Wednesday night Nationals Criterium would have fallen on 2 January in 2019, a year after a 3 January start made it impossible for the Bay Criterium to be run. The 4 January start still doesn’t give much leeway, but a two or three stage race is now a possibility with details to be confirmed.
“We’ve been talking with the organisers of the Bay Criterium,” said Kaufmann, “and obviously it’s an important race that we are very keen see return to the calendar. It’s been positive so far and that’s one of the things that we hope to announce in the upcoming weeks and months.”
The shift will have flow-on effects to the other side of what is becoming an increasingly cramped Australian summer of cycling. The main obstacle shapes to be the women's Tour Down Under, which starts on January 10, just two days after the women's elite time-trial.
With the additional concerns of travel to Adelaide and need to join early with their trade teams, riders may skip the test against the clock to prepare more fully for the financially lucrative Tour Down Under.
The final change is one more of location than timing, with the para-cycling events being brought onto the Buninyong course with the rest of the Road National Championships. The spirit of inclusiveness was often remarked upon as one of the best aspects of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the Cycling Australia announcement builds on the progress made in recent years.
“The feedback we got about the para events being run this year was really positive from everyone,” said Kaufmann, “although it was a bit removed from the rest of the events. We saw an opportunity to move it together and have it on the Buninyong course, which will give the para-athletes a great chance to show themselves to a larger audience.”
While some of the dates and details of aspects of the championships are awaiting announcement in coming weeks and months, the framework has been set in place for what shapes as another good edition of the premier road event.
“We’re very happy to continue this work with Ballarat and Fed Uni to make this another great event for Australian cycling,” said Kaufmann. “The criterium in Ballarat on Friday night should allow for bigger crowds, whether they are there in person or watching back home online. There are still a few things to announce in the next few months that haven’t been confirmed yet, so we’ll talk about things like course details at a later date.”
2019 FedUni Road National Championships, January 4-8, Ballarat, Victoria
Friday 4 Jan - Ballarat
Criteriums: U19, U23, Elite Women, Elite Men
Saturday 5 Jan – Buninyong
Road Races: Para (all categories), U19 Men and Women, U23 Men
Sunday 6 Jan – Buninyong
Road Races: U23 Women, Elite Women, Elite Men
Monday 7 Jan – Buninyong
Time Trials – Para (all categories), U19 Men and Women
Tuesday 8 Jan – Buninyong
Time Trials- U23 Men and Women, Elite Women, Elite Men