Nationals - Fixed Gear Crit
The 2019 National Road Championships held in Ballarat last weekend saw some amazing riding. Cycling Australia’s commitment to the full spectrum of mens, womens and para road cycling is impressive and this year saw the introduction of the first Fixed Gear Crit National Championship in both mens and womens. It goes without saying that we were stoked to see the efforts of so many individuals and organisations come to fruition in this initiative.
Fixed Gear Crits are only just emerging in this country but if you have been following our travels you will know that they are a big deal in Europe and the United States. The format is ideal for Australia – we have the ideal climate, a long history in track bike racing and we love local criterium racing – it’s the perfect combo to foster the sport.
Forecasts of 40 degrees C had been floating around all week and the bureau of meteorology absolutely nailed it with this one. Pre-race hydration, bags of ice and water boys in the ‘feed zone’ were required to deal with a seriously hot day but the conditions were the same for everyone so it was on with the show.
The course for all the criterium events is a hot dog circuit on Ballarat’s picturesque Sturt Street and is essentially uphill for the front straight and downhill for the back straight making it interesting on a fixed gear bike. The modest field of 15 riders in mens broke up quickly after the first few uphill efforts and a group of 8 then raced together at the front refusing to let anyone get away. In the end it came down to a bell lap sprint with Hal, Sean, Martin, Ray, Harry and Derek all the mix. Unfortunately, Sean tangled with a lapped rider on the final corner and Hal powered out of the mess for his first, and the first, Fixed Gear Crit National Championship. Harry and Ray took out the minor placings for an all Hunter Bros Cycling podium.
The women’s event saw a small group of riders take on the same conditions as the guys. Chilean track champion and Brunswick CC member, Catalina Soto, did most of the hard work on the front and along with fellow Brunswick CC rider, Elizabeth Nuspan, rode away from the field. Ultimately Catalina took out a very strong win and stood on top of the podium. Elizabeth crossed second ahead of Castlemaine rider, Emma Jackson. As the first Australian rider, Elizabeth was awarded the national jersey to add to her silver medal in the U19 Road Crit which she had ridden earlier in the day – a big effort in the conditions and great commitment to fixed gear racing.
To be racing fixed gear crits for a national jersey was a pipe dream 4 years ago when Hal and Ray first raced at the Red Hook Crit. We have worked with a heap of committed groups and there have been so many individuals who have been instrumental in the development of this format to this point. The weekend in Ballarat was a true milestone and will hopefully be the first of many for fixed gear crits in this country.
All photos by Ben Lehner.