Cyclists, officials and dignitaries have gathered in Ballarat today to launch the 2024 Federation University RoadNats Ballarat.
Next year’s edition has been billed as a celebration of two decades of Australian road cycling national championships. The January event will mark the 18th consecutive year that Ballarat has hosted the championships, and the 21st year since it first held them in 2002. The annual event brings together Australia’s top cyclists and para-cyclists to compete for the coveted green-and-gold jersey of national champion. The championships will begin on January 3 and 4 with time trials at Federation University’s picturesque Mt Helen Campus. Ballarat’s CBD will host the criteriums on Friday, January 5, where spectators can see the nation’s best fly up and down Sturt Street at incredible speeds. That’s before Buninyong becomes the focus of the road races on January 6 and 7. Excitingly, 2024 will see the return of the fan-favourite live site on Mount Buninyong, with food trucks, music and a big screen making the iconic climb the place to be on the weekend.
Sunday’s marquee events – the elite men’s and women’s road races – will be broadcast across Australia by SBS. The elite criteriums and under-23 men’s road race will also be streamed live. The national championships are expected to attract 20,000 visitors to the Ballarat region. That figure includes participants in the AusCycling Gran Fondo National Championships, which invites amateur cycling enthusiasts to tackle the Buninyong course on closed roads. Luke Plapp, 2022 and 2023 road race champion, said: “I love racing nationals in Ballarat; it has a special place in my heart. I love the terrain. I think the course offers a race for everyone. You can have a sprinter on the podium one year, or a climber winning it the next. “It’s a brilliant atmosphere around Buninyong. We love it as riders. You can feel everyone getting more energetic and excited as the laps count down, and it all comes down to that final showdown on the last lap. “The time trial will be my first target of the year. And then, of course, on the Sunday, I’ll give the road race a red-hot go to get the hat-trick.” Scott McGrory, race director, said: “Ballarat has become synonymous with the national road championships over the past two decades. The course, the riders and the fans always make for an exhilarating week of racing and a highlight of the Australian cycling calendar. “The enduring commitment from Ballarat and the challenging Buninyong course have ensured the event has global recognition, giving all our national champions instant credibility throughout the cycling community. “It’s a privilege to have been the race director for so many years in Ballarat, and I’m confident 2024 will give us another fantastic edition – one not to be missed.”
Marne Fechner, Chief Executive Officer of AusCycling, said: “Over the last 20 years and more, Ballarat has shaped the national championships into Australia’s premier road cycling event. For that, we have to thank the passionate fans, the local community, and the support of the City of Ballarat, Federation University and the Victorian Government. “AusCycling is looking forward to showcasing the very best of Australian cycling once again. It will be well worth it for any cycling fan to make the pilgrimage to Ballarat this January.” Cr Des Hudson, City of Ballarat Mayor, said: "We are incredibly proud to have hosted the Road Nationals for almost two consecutive decades, playing a major role in helping grow the event into what it is today. "We value our collaborative relationship with AusCycling and look back fondly over the event’s history, acknowledging the positive impact it has had on establishing Ballarat as Australia's premium cycling destination. “We look forward to seeing crowds across Sturt Street for the Criterium on Friday and back on the hill as the live site returns at the King of the Mountain in Buninyong Saturday and Sunday. "We are hopeful that Ballarat will have the opportunity to consider hosting the event into the future." Professor Duncan Bentley, Vice-Chancellor and President, Federation University Australia, said: “Federation University Australia is excited to once again support the Road National Championships which brings Australia’s best cyclists to the Ballarat region. As Victoria’s leading regional university, we are proud that for this year our Mt Helen campus will play host to the opening of this event with the Time Trials. “Federation’s Sport Science discipline is globally renowned, and through collaboration with AusCycling, we will be sharing our world-class expertise in this field during RoadNats for the benefit of athletes, students, and the broader community.” Steve Dimopoulos, Minister for Tourism, Sport, and Major Events, said: “The RoadNats will be a fantastic way to kick start 2024 and we look forward to welcoming Australia’s cycling community back to Ballarat in January.”
“Victoria is the home of Australian cycling – and with top-notch events, an abundance of incredible cycling terrain, and a diverse offering of bike tourism experiences catered for riders of all abilities – it’s easy to see why.”
Photos: Con Chronis.