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Riding the Aussie Road Nats in Ballarat

November 26, 2015

Distance – 10.1km

Elevation Gain – 208m

Every year the small town of Buninyong, just outside Ballarat, plays host to the Australian National Road Race Championships.

The Road Race Championships consists of multiple laps around a 10.1km course. There are different distances depending on the race classification – men’s under 23, women’s under 23, men’s elite and women’s elite.

Riding the National Road Race course is a no-brainer for any cyclist travelling to Ballarat. For those looking to ride the Road Nats course, plus a little extra, here are some great cycling options for all abilities and fitness levels.

nats course sign

If you fancy testing yourself against the best that Australian cycling has to offer, then a hot lap of the Australian National Road Race course is the perfect option.

The 10.1km loop gains 208m of elevation and is broken up into a few very distinct segments.

The first third of the course has two challenging climbs that will test the legs and raise the heart rate.

The first climb of the day is short - approximately one kilometre with sections above a 10% gradient. This part of the course is neutralised during the race thanks to the feed zone, but for everyone else attempting the lap, it’s full gas from the get go.

See also: Check out Ballarat's Top 6 Road Rides

A very short reprieve greets riders as the course turns left and straight into the second climb. Each year this is where the race is won and lost. The second climb is also short, just over one kilometre but again consists of steep gradients in excess of 10%.

Almost 100% of the climbing on the Road Nats course is done in the first third, but that doesn’t mean the rest is easy. Two long false flat sections of road named Yankee-Flat Rd and Gear Ave make up the second third of the course. At pace this section will zap the juice from your legs just as much as the climbs.

Very often riders expend too much energy trying to hold onto a wheel on the climbs, leaving nothing in the tank for this long stretch of road.

From there the fun begins! The final 4km of the course are downhill and over all too quickly.

See also: Here's your itinerary for a weekend in Ballarat

rideing the nats course

Fisken Rd signals the downhill portion of the course. The best way to describe the Fisken Road descent is ‘flowing’. There’s very little need to touch the brakes on this section, despite the tight and twisty nature of the road. It is possible to freewheel down Fisken Rd, but it’s best to try and pedal some portions to clear the lactic that will no doubt be pooling in your legs right about now.

A sharp left turn at the bottom of Fisken Rd leads onto Geelong Rd and the final kilometre of the Road Nats course. The Geelong Rd descent is fast and open, enabling riders to carry a lot of speed into the final straight.

The finish line for the Road Nats is just before the Buninyong roundabout that takes you back out onto the course.

For those keeping score, the elite men will tick off laps around the 14-15 minute mark and the elite women-only a minute behind. An extraordinary effort given the amount of elevation gain and total distance.

See also: Post-ride brew sorted! Here are the best coffee spots in Ballarat

Here are three additional rides to cater for those looking to extend their ride beyond the Road Nats course.

Extended Ride Option #1 – The ‘Short’ Road Nats

Distance – 50 km

Elevation Gain - 584m

This ‘short’ ride option begins at Racers Café and Bar and completes one lap of the Road Nationals course before returning to Ballarat through Navigators and Eureka. The inclusion of the Nats course makes the loop a challenging one, lifting the vertical gain to an impressive 584m in only 50km.

riding the nats course day2

Extended Ride Option #2 – The ‘Intermediate’ Road Nats

Distance – 88.5 km

Elevation Gain – 985m

The ‘intermediate’ Road Nats option follows a similar route to the ‘short’ option, but extends to include Mt. Edgerton. The Mt. Edgerton climb is not too dissimilar to the Road Nationals climb; 1 km in length and an average gradient of 8.0% that will have you in the hurt locker, but not for long. The return to Ballarat travels through Springbank, Claretown and over White Swan Rd.

riding down hill

Extended Ride Option #3 – The ‘Long’ Road Nats

Distance – 114 km

Elevation Gain – 1,307m

The ‘long’ Road Nats option follows the same route as the ‘intermediate’ option, but picks up extra distance via the road out to Mollonghip. In addition to an extra 25km, the ‘long’ loop picks up an additional 300m of elevation gain.

Thank you

A sincere thanks goes to the following for helping make this Destination series such a success:

Ballarat-Sebastapol Cycling Club – especially Jenni, Liam, Nick and Tim and Karen for their local knowledge and good riding legs!

The Avanti Racing Team – thanks to our superstar tour guides Pat Shaw and Matt Clark

Rapha – for some sweet jerseys

Specialized – for some equally sweet kit and the opportunity to take the Specialized Roubaix out for many spins

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