It's so easy to poke holes in our national domestic road series, that I abstain writing about them. For most of the year I gloss over the bad, ugly, and frankly, damned dangerous, because I understand that this series, for all its chest-beating, is well and truly stuck in its infancy, and attacking it, does more damage than good.
I'm not alone. Cycling Australia knows the series isn't up to scratch. It's run at a loss, is contested by teams of wildly different aptitudes and budgets, has safety and duty of care problems year-on-year, and despite ostensible developments, really hasn't changed dramatically since it was rebranded in 2010. As of 2014 it remains full of professional pretence, but firmly stuck in an amateur land.
But I get all that. I remember covering my first cycling event, the now dead in the water Goulburn to Sydney, and witnessing a race run on the passion of volunteers and the philanthropy of a selfless few. Those people are inspirational. They're what drives domestic cycling in this country, but what pains me is that at present too much of their effort is fruitless. Depressingly, it need not be.
If only the calendar would change.
It's a thought that I'd been mulling over for quite some time, but really crystallised during this year's Giro d'Italia. Here we were, completely under the pump, under-staffed, under-resourced, trying to service the full broadcast to what was a brilliant Grand Tour, devoting ourselves to itÃ¢â¬¦ and then we had two NRS events to cover; the Tour of Toowoomba, and the Battle on the Border.
I don't think I have to tell you which had our full focus.
Sport, professionally at least, is run on promotion, and sponsor exposure. Sponsorship dollars are directly tied to column inches, web-space, social media shares, you name it.
Broadly, the media is critical to a venture's commercial success. And pomposity aside, without news organisations like Fairfax, NewsCorp, publishers like RIDE, broadcasters like SBS, online hubs like Cyclingnews and CyclingTips any cycling venture in Australia will be stuck.
Yet, with increasingly tight editorial resources, we're made to weigh the local versus international, amateur versus professional, time and time again.
Toowoomba vs the Giro; Ronde van Vlaanderen vs Tour of Adelaide, Gippsland vs the Vuelta.
From my perspective, if the NRS is going to survive, it needs to be run in the summer months, in clear air. Ideally, a September launch, running through to March, maybe April at the latest.
The Series would then have the breathing space it needs to grow. It could feed off the momentum the sport already gathers through January, with Nationals and the Santos Tour Down Under and cap out with the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
Races like the Tour of Tasmania could be pushed into warmer months, and the season could run with only a short break in December. By April, the series would be over allowing the more professional domestic teams to line up in Asia without stretching their rosters, and crucially, it would not clash with the European season.
For cycling fans it'd be a dream. Whet your appetite for the European season, with Australia's best fighting it out over summer. Competitive cycling, 12 months of the year.
It would make a helluva lot more sense than fighting with the AFL, the NRL and the European cycling season for limited media space.
Of course, changing the calendar is no silver bullet to the Series' other woes, but without a major rethink in this regard, it can only continue to struggle.