Their Ride is now Your Ride
Welcome to our new series, Pro-Files. In this series we will be investigating the favourite training grounds of Australia’s top riders and publishing them for you to ride. In this first of the series we decided that with the Scody National Road Championships approaching, people would like test themselves on the course and who better to talk us through it than current Australian Road Champion and Tour de France rider, Matthew Lloyd.
For the third consecutive year, the Australian National Champions will be selected on the testing Buninyong courses. Each January the cream of Australian cycling descend on the Victorian town which is 10km from Ballarat, for the chance to spend the next 12 months wearing the famous green and gold jersey. Previous winners include Matthew Lloyd (2008), Darren Lapthorne (2007), Robbie McEwen, (2005 and 2002), Stuart O’Grady (2003). Previous female winners include Oenone Wood (2008 and 2004), Katie Mactier (2007 and 2001) and Lorin Graham (2005). Former winners of the championships have the right to wear green and gold hoops on their sleeves for the rest of their careers. The path to National Championship glory is a difficult one. The course, at Buninyong is exceptionally testing. It has been chosen because for a rider to succeed on this course they must show endurance, climbing ability and good technical skills during the descent. The loop is 10.2km long and climbs the slopes of Mt Buninyong, an extinct volcano that rises above the Ballarat plains. Right from the word go, the course begins to climb. For three kilometres the road goes up, averaging five percent gradient. This may not sound much, but the elite male riders have to do the course 16 times. The women ride 10 laps and the U23 men ride 12. After the initial climb, the road is flat with some tight corners to be negotiated. You can get undone here because in your head you think that the descent is near. It isn’t, being still another two kilometres away. The descent of the mountain is tight and twisty. To add to the degree of difficulty, the road is lined with tall gum trees, which give it a cathedral like effect. When you drive down it in a car, it’s cool and refreshing after the hot sun. When you’re sitting in the bunch, three abreast at 70kph, it’s a different thing altogether and riders have to take care.
Into the bright sunlight again riders are faced with an immediate left hand turn before a super fast descent to the finish in Buninyong township. A left turn and it’s time to do it all over again. This year the women’s field will be very open with the 2008 champion, Oenone Wood recently retired. Olympic gold medallist Sara Carrigan will also be a noticeable absentee. For the men it is even more difficult. With most of Australia’s top riders having overseas contracts, it is always a difficult decision whether to contest the Nationals or use it as a warm up for the Tour Down Under. Because it is held in January, if you train hard with a view to the win, then you almost have to stop training immediately afterwards. If you don’t you can find yourself tired out when the big European races come around. At the same time, the green and gold jersey is highly regarded in Europe and victory could really help your career.
Riding the Nationals With Matt Lloyd