Ballarat gears up for the Road Nats

The most prestigious national event on the Australian cycling calendar returns to Ballarat and Buninyong this summer with the Federation University Road National Championships from 8 to 12 January.

Nick White and Shannon Malseed are all set for the 2020 Road Nats.

Innovations this year include changes to the time trial course to allow spectators to see more of the action, more often, while a new timeslot for the Gran Fondo and the return of the popular community event in Buninyong are sure to be highlights.

Home crowd advantages are a rare event for most Australian cyclists.

But for Nick White and Shannon Malseed, racing at the Road National Championships provides an extra spur to success.

Shannon, who grew up in Victoria’s south west and spent five years in Ballarat, took out the 2018 women’s road race, while Nick, also from Ballarat, won last year’s under-23 men’s road race.

Both riders say the unique atmosphere generated by the supportive local crowd provides a huge boost. It’s like our very own Tour De France, cow bells and all.

“I spend most of the year racing overseas where my family and friends are on the other side of the world. They don’t get to see most of my racing,” Shannon says.

“To have them here and close enough to reach out and touch me, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s one of my favourite races of the whole year.”

Nick agrees: “To be able to pull off a result for those people is pretty special. It helps push you and motivate you.”

Victory at the Road Nationals entitles the winner to wear the Australian champion’s jersey for the rest of the year. 

Fans can look forward to some exciting additions to the event program. 

The time trials will run on a new course which starts and finishes at the Federation University Mount Helen campus, providing a more technically demanding ride for competitors and better viewing for spectators.

The Gran Fondo, where fans can ride the road race course, moves to a new timeslot on Saturday afternoon, leading in to the popular Saturday evening community event at Buninyong’s De Soza Park.

City of Ballarat Events Manager Heidi Zukauskas says the Road Nationals is a key plank of Ballarat’s summer events offering.

“What was once a quiet time of year for the city is now alive with events like Christmas in Ballarat, Nitro Circus and Summer Sundays,” Heidi says.

“The event also gives Ballarat unparalleled media exposure in Australia and to tens of millions internationally, through live broadcasts across SBS and Fox Sports.”

The summer events program reflects the direction outlined in the City of Ballarat’s Events Strategy 2018–2028 and the Ballarat is Open project to attract and sustain a vibrant events calendar and build visitor economy.

“Securing hosting rights is extremely competitive. That we’ve retained the Road Nats for the past 14 years is mainly due to the event friendly environment created by the City of Ballarat and professional event support provided by our events team.

“We’ve facilitated and encouraged changes to the program, like last year’s shift of the criterium to Friday night, to maximise the benefits for our accommodation, retail and hospitality sector, and we’re confident this year’s additions will further enhance those benefits,” Heidi says.