• Ben Dyball wins the men's road race at the 2019 Oceania Cycling Championships (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
A seemingly good fit with Tasmania and the Oceania Road Cycling Championships (OCC) is said to have devolved into a bitter feud with alleged infighting between Tasmanian cycling clubs and Cycling Tasmania.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

23 Jan 2020 - 12:25 PM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2020 - 12:51 PM

The event moved to Tasmania from the ACT after the 2017 Oceania Road Cycling Championships (the Oceanias). 

An agreement was made in 2017 with the Tasmanian government to provide sponsorship dollars for the tourism benefit the Oceanias brings.

On January 13, the decision to seek a new destination for the 2020 edition of the Oceanias was announced by the OCC in a press release after “the OCC has exhausted all avenues with Cycling Australia and cycling stakeholders in Tasmania in order to enable the Championships to proceed as planned.”

Cycling Central talked with Tracey Gaudry, the president of the OCC, at last week's Women’s Tour Down Under about the event's relocation. 

“Three years ago, the OCC was delighted to be working with Cycling Tasmania and Cycling Australia to support an opportunity for the Tasmania government to support a three-year term for the Oceania road championships,” Gaudry said.

“We were looking to build the size and the scale of the event and to build a product over time, so riders knew what they were coming back to year on year.

“Unfortunately, we became aware that the capacity of the state organiser to deliver the event for this year had issues. As a regulator for the sport, we have to think about what’s viable and what’s not. We needed to make the call for the benefit and clarity of riders and teams.

"From the OCC’s perspective, the primary interest is having an agreement with the host that the event be delivered along with the safety and technical requirements required of a championship event.

"It’s not our role to investigate all the under the surface but when Cycling Tasmania, validated by Cycling Australia, declared that the infrastructure wasn’t in place to the extent that Cycling Tasmania wanted it to be, we had to make the call from a safety and a technical perspective of what’s right for the race.”  

Cycling Central’s talks with other key figures in Tasmania cycling have suggested divisions between the cycling clubs and Cycling Tasmania may have contributed to the event’s organisation falling apart.

Collin Burns, race director for the Oceanias in Tasmania and former CEO of Cycling Tasmania, talked about the issues at stake including what he believes is a lack of cooperation brought about by the AusCycling voting process.

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“We realised in November that we wouldn’t have enough volunteers to run the event,” Burns said. “AusCycling was definitely a factor, there was a bit of angst within the community.

"Everyone got on really well but unfortunately AusCycling has created a lot of division within the community as some clubs voted yes and some clubs voted no.”

The ultimate problem for the joint bid of Cycling Tasmania and the Mersey Valley Devonport Cycling Club was that they didn't have enough volunteers to provide the services required for a continental championships including effectively closing down roads and manning required posts along the route.

“The board made the decision in November and notified Cycling Australia on the third of December of the decision," Burns said. "In the end we couldn’t be emotional about it we had to be objective. We couldn’t guarantee that the event would be run safely.

“I had a staff force of over 100 last year and run the event over the two years, the third year was probably a bit much for us.”

Investigation with a number of cycling clubs within Tasmania revealed that a subsequent separate joint bid with enough volunteers to host an event had been made. Launceston City Cycling Club, University Cycling Club and the City of Burnie Cycling Club are understood to be part of this joint bid to host the event.

Cycling Central confirmed this with Launceston City Cycling Club president Michael Bailey and The Advocate published a quote from University Cycling Club president James McKee indicating the Oceanias could have been staged.

The Advocate article also stated Cycling Tasmania didn’t throw their weight behind the bid and with the sponsorship dollars tied up in a specific deal with Cycling Tasmania and the Tasmanian government, it proved too late to restart discussions to provide adequate support.

Cycling Central put this to Cycling Tasmania via email but did not receive a response before publication.

The future for the event in 2020 is as yet undefined, but Gaudry and the OCC are optimistic of a speedy resolution and announcement of a new venue.

“We’re working closely with Cycling Australia and Cycling New Zealand to identify an appropriate venue host and date to host the championships this year, most likely in Australia,” said Gaudry. “We’re doing our due diligence on a number of opportunities that exist.

“It’s not exhaustive, we’re admitting that, but our ambition is that we make an announcement in the next two weeks that we’ll be holding an event in the front part of this season. If that is able to be secured, we’ll make the announcement quite quickly, so the riders can set their calendar as part of their season.”

The Oceanias is an increasingly important event, with UCI points on offer the impetus behind riders like Sharlotte Lucas and Ben Dyball taking the step up to the WorldTour in recent years.

With young riders also using Oceanias as a stepping stone towards the World Championships, a year without the event would be a significant blow for the region.

While not yet finalised, Cycling Central understands that the OCC are in negotiations to stage the event in south-east Queensland, with Brisbane and Toowoomba in consideration.