When it was announced Wollongong would play host to the 2022 UCI World Road Cycling Championships, talk invariably turned to the makeup of the course.
Will the cyclists head south to take on the Jamberoo Pass or will they head north up the Bulli Pass? Will the Sea Cliff Bridge and it’s stunning views feature?
The route is very much in the early stages of the planning process, but the riders who are most familiar with the Illawarra’s roads are confident the region has the terrain to challenge the world’s best riders.
Phil Jones, president of the Illawarra Cycle Club, said the likes of Rohan Dennis, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas will be tested by the region’s hills should organisers incorporate the escarpment into the route.
“This will be the biggest sporting event ever to come to the area, it will be absolutely huge,” Jones said. “Where they actually run the road course, I don’t know, but I suspect it will be some sort of lap circuit to incorporate the spectators, rather than a long road course.
“We definitely have the terrain, there’s plenty of scope for road courses and with the council on board, road closures won’t be a problem.
“There’s a range of hills available, Mt Keira, the Macquarie Pass, the Jamberoo Pass. The Macquarie Pass was used in the old Cycle Classic series when that went through the Illawarra.”
Jones has seen the activity of cycling surge in popularity in recent times, with dedicated cycle paths and road improvements helping to remove barriers to access.
However, the Illawarra Cycle Club has seen member numbers remain steady for a number of years, with many casual cyclists opting against competitive racing.
For Jones, the biggest barrier to the club’s growth is the lack of a dedicated road cycling course. Such a facility would provide cyclists in the region the ability to compete in regular races on a safe course without the need to close roads.
The club has been working on the development of a road course adjacent to the Unanderra velodrome and Jones is hopeful the increase in interest in the sport leading into the world championships will help the club complete the project.
“The fact is we really need a dedicated road-racing circuit. The Illawarra Cycle Club has a parcel of land that we’re working on to build a dedicated circuit for Illawarra cyclists to race on.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed this will help us approach government departments and get funding to build the course. We believe having a dedicated road coarse built to a standard to host national races is vital to help the club grow.”
While the club wasn’t involved in securing the championships, Jones is hopeful they will play a key role in preparing Wollongong for the competition.
“It would have been nice to have some sort of connection to the announcement, being a local club that’s been around for over 60 years. But we’re hoping to be on board and involved with the competition when it arrives.”