With the race calendar packed and big changes to the National Championships schedule, Mike Tomalaris wonders if the event is being relegated to second class status.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

The Australian cycling calendar in January has become so congested, I'm
starting to wonder whether Cycling Australia is providing a disservice
to national road championships at the expense of the demands of the Tour
Down Under.

In 2011 the Aussie road season looks like this:

The
Bay Cycling Classic (January 2-5) is immediately followed by the
Australian Open Road Championships (January 6-11) before the week long
festival of the Tour Down Under (January 16-23) takes hold.

There's
no denying the TDU has developed into a world class showpiece and
should never be ignored nor overlooked by Australia's cycling honchos.

Besides, there's no way the UCI will tamper with the Pro-Tour's first event of the year - and why should they?

But
why do I get the feeling Cycling Australia still chooses to throw all
its energies into the South Australian classic, while partly ignoring
its own premier event held in and around Ballarat in the days prior?

In
case you're not across the new schedule for the national road titles -
this summer's event, has been extended to six days (from five) with two
rest days in between.

Two rest days I hear you say?

The
schedule reads like this: The criteriums will be held on Thursday,
January 6, the road races on January 8 and 9 with the Time Trials on
Tuesday, January 11.

The biggest mystery are the TTs - to be held
two days AFTER the men's road race - the event that traditionally
completes the national titles.

In footy-speak, that's a bit like playing a semi final after the Grand Final - it just doesn't make sense!

Every country in the world completes its respective national titles with the men's RR - everyone except us that is it seems.

The method behind the madness is a result of the calendar being so tightly squeezed.

CA
chooses to - understandably - bow to the UCI, but won't make the hard
decision of forcing organisers of Victoria's Bay Series to move their
event to an earlier date?

That would certainly create more breathing space for all involved and no clash or overlap for either event.

Here's a possible scenario which would make life a little easier, perhaps.

Start the Bay Crits on New Year's Eve at say, between 6-9pm, on either Lygon Street Carlton, or on the Geelong foreshore.

This
would allow spectators to watch the race and still allow revellers to
celebrate the arrival of the new year a few hours later?

Stage 2
could be held as a twilight race in Williamstown on New Year's Day for
example, with stages 3 and 4 rounding off the series on January 2 and 3.

Thus
not affecting the Nationals' timetable which has traditionally started
on a Wednesday and ran through to the following Sunday.

I feel sorry for the TT riders as they will have to perform on empty roads on a working day.

It will certainly be an anti-climax to what should be a highlight of the year for many competitors.

As for national TV coverage of the race-against-the-clock - there won't be any!

TV
Producers cannot afford to house, feed and pay production crew in
Ballarat those extra two days as the costs involved can't be justified.

With
all due respect to the TT combatants, I'm afraid they'll hardly rate a
mention on the sports back pages or the TV news bulletins on that
Tuesday night ahead of the tennis and cricket which dominates the Aussie
sporting landscape at that time of year.

It's time for CA to make some hard decisions and look after their own backyard, for the sake of riders, teams and spectators.