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A modified version of the divisive Mt. Buninyong circuit will be used for the road races at the 2018 FedUni Road National Championships, Cycling Australia revealed on Monday.
At a press conference in Ballarat, Victoria, the national body unveiled a 11.6km course that is near identical to the 10.2km course that has been used in 14 of the past 16 editions of the Australian Road National Championships. Where the traditional circuit would feature the descent of Fisken Rd in the closing kilometres, the new circuit takes the riders through the grounds of Federation University — the event’s title sponsor from 2018 to 2020.
The extended circuit distance means that each road race will comprise fewer laps (and therefore fewer ascents of Mt. Buninyong) than in previous years. The U23 men will compete 12 laps for a total of 139.2km (vs 13 laps/132km), the elite and U23 women will complete nine laps for a total of 104.4km (10/102km), and the elite men will complete 16 laps for a total of 185.6km (18/183.km).
The U19 women and U19 men, new additions to the Road Nationals carnival for 2018, will race six laps (69.6km) and nine laps (104.4km) of the course respectively.
Perhaps most interesting is the nature of the new section of the course through Federation University. Where the traditional circuit features a fast, flowing descent on Fisken Road, the new section is considerably more technical. Indeed, with three tight corners in the space of 300 metres, the new route could potentially change the dynamic of each race’s final kilometres.
“Racing through Federation University always provided a unique opportunity to change the course and provide an additional technical element to the race which doesn’t occur on the [Fisken Rd] descent,” said Cycling Australia Nick Green via a press release. “This is an evolution of the course that adds some distance to the major events, and a new technical challenge.”
The updated road race course comes after a panel of experts, including 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman, considered a range of courses that would satisfy a range of sporting and commercial requirements. Ultimately, the course they settled on doesn’t deviate much from the status quo, but Nick Green has said that “the panel will continue to review the course yearly”. Indeed, CyclingTips understands that further that revisions of the course are likely throughout the Road Nationals’ new, three-year partnership with the City of Ballarat.
While there have long been calls for the Road Nationals from Mt. Buninyong, the issue is more nuanced than many realise. The City of Ballarat is almost unique among cities of its size in being able to provide substantial financial support for the event (with the support of the Victorian government). And the Mt. Buninyong climb, criticised by many in recent years, is a crucial factor in attracting fans to the region to watch the race — a key tourism driver for the race’s backers.
The paracycling road races, another new addition to the 2018 Nationals carnival, will take part on a 12.1km circuit near Burrumbeet, roughly 20km west of Ballarat.
The criteriums will take place on the now-familiar Sturt St circuit in the heart of Ballarat with the U19s being followed by U23 men, U23 and elite women, and then the elite men. The same course will also be used for the Club Teams Criterium Championships, which comprises 18 laps of the 1.1km circuit.
The time trials, too, will take place on the same course as in previous years, with riders heading south from Buninyong before turning around and heading back to town. The elite men will cover a total of 40.9km; the elite and U23 women, and the U23 men, will cover 29.3km; the U19 men will race 21.6km; the U19 women will cover 15.9km; and the paracycling categories will be raced on courses of between 12km and 29.5km.
The full schedule for the 2018 FedUni Road National Championships is as follows: