If we are to embrace the true spirit of sport, the national road titles should not have their place cast in stone, argues an obstreperous Anthony Tan.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM


Over time, the jersey will lose some of its lustre because Buninyong rewards only a certain type of rider. I respectfully disagree with latest blog to emerge from chez Mike
Tomalaris, 'Don't bounce Buninyong'. (I warned him about skolling
copious amounts of Kool-Aid from the Ballarat corner store.)

It
was a great elite men's race, one of the best in years, as many of you
have already said – that much I agree. However, that doesn't mean as
long as the national road title is held on the Buninyong circuit, it
will always be great race.

If you want to use your argument,
Tomo, then we might as well run the Tour de France route over the same
parcours as last year for the next 20 years, because that was a great
race and had massive crowds, too!

For the overwhelming majority of other countries, the national road championship is held on a different parcours each year.

Doing
so encourages, not detracts, interest (each year, how much is the Tour
course analysed, dissected and debated before a pedal is turned?); it
also produces different types of winners; and it does not favour those
whose have ridden more than a few national titles on the same circuit.

I'm
all for rewarding experience, but race experience – not experience in
terms of familiarity with the course itself. The latter should only be
reserved for the Monuments of the sport – San Remo, Flanders, Roubaix,
Li̬ge and Lombardy Рand even those intransigent elderly beings have
their route modified from time to time.

* * *

Let's face
it: as exciting as Sunday's race was, "it was always going to come down
to three or four", as Matt Lloyd, eventual second on the day, said, both
before and afterwards.

Why should the likes of Mark Renshaw, Mat
Hayman, Michael Matthews, Chris Sutton, Bernard Sulzberger et al – all
worthy champions, I think you'd agree – keep showing up, when, even in
top nick, they stand little-to-no-chance of claiming the coveted green
and gold jersey?

Yes, Robbie McEwen won the title in Buninyong in
2002 but that was then; comparatively, a much weaker field. Much has
changed in 10 years, not least the depth of riders Australia now boasts –
hence the split in the men's elite and under-23 fields (from 2007
onwards), and, for the first time this year, restriction to those
holding anything other than an Australian racing licence.

Isn't
the essence of sport about giving all competitors a fair go? Over time, I
imagine, the jersey will lose some of its lustre because Buninyong
rewards only a certain type of rider.

If other States, such as
New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, are not
as strong in terms of their cycling fraternities, then one way of
attracting those into the sport and building less established
communities would be to stage a marquee event like the national road
titles, no?

And for those States that are well established –
Tasmania and Queensland come to mind – then let's see what they have to
offer and discover why they've become hotbeds of cycling talent.

While
we're at it, why not alternate with one year in regional/country area,
one year in a capital city? Do we have to be so steadfast or defeatist
and say it's too hard, too expensive, too highbrow, too whatever?

* * *

Since
I'm high on my soapbox, can people stop calling it an individual race?
(Those who continue to spruik so must think we're thick as Chris Hoy's
legs.) The GreenEDGE guys may have paid for their own entry fees but
that's about the extent of their individual commitments, getting
themselves to Ballarat aside.

Let me demonstrate by way of some
quotes from our worthy winner Simon Gerrans, from the official press
release: "I just capped off some great teamwork from GreenEDGE today, I
am so proud of all of the guys"; "with a couple of laps to go, Cameron
Meyer ran out of gas and it became an even playing field as we had the
same amount of guys at the front as a lot of other teams, so it was
pretty much every team for itself and we lost our advantage"; "we just
really tried to dominate the race with numbers at GreenEDGE".

To
quote a famous Tweet from Lance Armstrong, after he and Alberto Contador
butted heads at the 2009 Tour de France: There is no 'I' in team.

So
good was Gerro Sunday, he may well have won the race on his own.
Nonetheless, after Cam Meyer blew like a trumpet player in the West
Australian Symphony Orchestra, his GreenEDGE team-mates placed him the
best position possible, which, quite naturally, he took full advantage
of.

I also think in the spirit of fair play, teams should be
restricted to seven riders. To have the next largest ProTeam
representation (that being Team Sky, who fielded four men) just a
quarter the size of Le Groupe GreenEDGE makes for a lopsided race.

Again,
should this become enforced, regularly changing the course would ensure
most, if not all, Australian GreenEDGE riders would get a run.

A
credit to all involved, Buninyong/Ballarat has been and is the
bellwether for future national championships – but that does not mean
they should stay there. If, by next year, it's too hard to change the
location, then please, Mister Craven and Cycling Australia, at least
change the course.

Twitter: @anthony_tan