The signal for a new era for Australian cycling was confirmed Monday when AusCycling confirmed the Australian Road National Championships would be held in Perth for three years from 2025.
In 2011, when respected former race organiser John Craven told now-retired sprint champion Robbie McEwen to ride “off into the sunset and let the young men take over” following objections to the fixed course and location of the event at Buninyong, Craven’s comments were even picked up by the Australian football, rugby and cricket-obsessed mainstream media.
Former pro Mark Renshaw believed he and other pure sprinters never stood a chance of winning a green-and-gold jersey on the undulating circuit that was held in regional Victoria. Eventually the sprinter and lead-out specialist just stopped showing up at the event.
Conjecture around the course and location of the titles became an annual debate that was revisited every January but never acted upon – until now. “West is best,” Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) published on social media, pointing to the national federation’s statement.
The news particularly tickled those from Australia’s isolated west coast, an area that has produced an embarrassment of cycling riches, most recently in the form of 2022 Giro d’Italia winner Hindley, Tour de France stage winner Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and recent Tour Down Under winner Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe).
In anticipation of the expected announcement, Cyclingnews canvassed opinion at the men’s Tour Down Under last week. Long-time proponents for change also welcomed the move, with recently appointed Astana Qazaqstan Sports Director Renshaw saying it was “well overdue”.
“In the nature of sport, it’s better we have different courses,” he said. “We’ll still have worthy winners every year. You could run it in a carpark and still have a good Championships. I think it’s great they’re changing.
“It’s nice if one location could have it for three years, so at least they can get some traction and then build the event and have a peak, and then onto a new location.”
For some inside the peloton, it was a moot point. Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) rarely returns from Europe, where he is based, to Australia for the ‘Aussie summer of cycling’ that currently includes the national titles, Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
“To be honest I’ve only ridden Nationals once as an elite, so it doesn’t really affect…