Am I the only one staggered (albeit not surprised) by the cancellation of this year’s Goulburn to Sydney Classic? One of the most historic road races in Australia? A premier event on the Subaru National Road Series calendar and the only one that comes within cooee of the Nation’s largest city?
I am well aware of the issues that led to the plug regrettably being officially pulled yesterday. But, damningly, so have the various parties involved in this sorry saga. Cycling NSW, Cycling Australia, the NSW Police, race organisers (Macarthur Collegians Cycling Club), Goulburn City Council et al – they’ve known about the safety concerns of using the Hume Freeway for months. Yet it still comes to this just 2 weeks from the start. How? Why?
We’re not talking about a mass participation sportif or a disposable minor race here. Goulburn to Sydney has been around for 110 years: it was first staged just one year after Federation. Surely one of this country’s most time-honoured and important cycling events deserves more than to be thrust in to the ‘too hard basket’?
Warning bells should have been ringing loudly since January. The issue should have been escalated way back then – when there was time to do something about it. And if it was escalated back then, well frankly it should have been escalated higher – because clearly whoever was making the decisions at the time didn’t have their heart in it or appreciate the true importance of this race. Either that, or they were just managerially impotent in the bigger scheme of things.
Can’t find an answer? Then surely those in charge had an obligation to try harder. Still can’t make it work? Then get back to the drawing board, pull in other people if you have to and keep bloody looking.
Some things are worth fighting – and paying – to save. I fully understand why they couldn’t completely close down the Hume Freeway to guarantee rider safety. But there are other routes. If those weren’t suitable for a speeding peloton in their current condition, then maybe the organisers and relevant Government authorities, heck even Cycling Australia, should have done something to rectify them months ago. Let’s not forget that throughout Europe roads are routinely resurfaced and repaired so races can be staged safely in local communities.
I’m sure Goulburn City is going to feel the financial pinch of this calamitous decision. I feel sorry for the businesses that will be affected in the next few weeks when the NRS teams, and the associated entourage, don’t show up. But where was the foresight from the various levels of Government responsible for the region? Surely it’s a worthy investment in the region’s future? Not to mention an obligation to preserve its past?
I’m no expert on these things. But I do know that in pretty much any facet of life, there is almost always a solution. You just need people prepared to put in the hard yards to find it; people who are so darn stubborn and driven that they will not give up until they succeed. Sadly such people appear light on the ground in this case.
Here’s hoping it’s not too late to save the race forever. But I suspect it will take a significant change in attitude, and sustained community pressure, for it to happen.
Of even greater concern, of course, is the precedent this sets for other road races in Australia. Could we be looking at a future where the NRS is restricted to criteriums?