Road and track cycling are integral to the fabric of WA’s bicycle riding community.
The State’s picturesque roads, extensive principal shared path network and world-class velodrome attract hundreds of thousands of riders each year.
The State has also been the breeding ground for some of the world’s best cyclists, including world and national champions Cameron Meyer and Luke Durbridge.
WestCycle is amplifying its focus on these disciplines as part of its new structure.
The winding up of CycleSport WA at the start of the year saw the birth of WestCycle Road and Track.
WestCycle chief executive Matt Fulton described this transition as a logical step for the organisation.
“At a day to day level this hasn’t impacted us greatly because we were running it anyway – it has simplified the branding and positioning,” he said.
WestCycle Road and Track represent the competition aspect of cycling, linking riders to events year round.
This year the group has added several new events to the calendar including race and gran fondo options in Gidgegannup, York and Lancelin as part of its Element Road Series.
The Ring Summer Criterium Series stands out as one of WestCycle’s most popular and visible events, staged on the streets of some of Perth’s most vibrant suburbs.
The series attracted 815 riders across five races this summer, in Subiaco, Northbridge, Mandurah, Wellard and Northam.
Mr Fulton said the logistics involved in running these events were immense, which made it a costly exercise for the organisation.
“The Ring Series this year cost us $82 per entrant to race but the entry fee is $45; the challenge for us is how we fill that $37 gap,” he said.
“We take a hit on doing those sorts of events. We are not here to fleece the community, there can be a misunderstanding of the reality of some of these things.”
A familiar face at WestCycle’s events, Glenn Te Raki is heading up the organisation’s newly formed Road and Track unit.
In consultation with WestCycle’s road and track advisory groups, Mr Te Raki will focus on building the future of the disciplines in WA.
He has a strong cycling background on and off the bike for the past 25 years and is a former national track champion.
The road cycling advisory group is comprised of Midland Cycle Club’s Lachlan McCrea, South Perth Rouleurs’ Daniel Harvey, Roues Chaudes Cycling Club’s Paul Perich, Liam MaGowan and Clint Hort of Peel Districts, Australian Time Trial Association’s Peter Meyer, Cycling Development Foundation’s Brad Hall, Merv Byfield of West Coast Masters, Wayne Deany of Midland Cycle Club and prominent rider Brett Stapleton.
The group will help develop a three-year priorities plan for road cycling in WA and act as a conduit for the road cycling community.
Considered some of the best brains in the sport, the group’s members will work with WestCycle to identify the key issues impacting the sport and help build its membership base.
Engaging more riders to do events such as the Dams Challenge and the Element Road Series will be a big focus for WestCycle this year.
Mr Fulton said part of the struggle of building numbers at these events was complexities around memberships.
For example, if a rider wants to compete in a road race, time trial and masters event they would need three separate licenses for each.
Mr Fulton said this financial impost deterred some riders from becoming members of cycling groups.
He said the proliferation of bunch rides around Perth should translate to higher participation in events, but this was not necessarily the case.
“You see these huge groups out there actively engaged in cycling, but they are not part of a community beyond that group,” he said.
“How do we offer them value, how do we show there is benefit in being a member of a club or of WestCycle? This is a challenge.”
He said greater collaboration between cycling bodies would go part of the way to solving the issue.
WA’s strong contingent of cycling clubs, which cater for the full spectrum of riders from rookie to elite, play an integral role in the strength of the State’s cycling community.
Mr Fulton said it was vital that clubs continued to host events and foster a welcoming environment, because without them, a lot of WestCycle’s work would be in vain.
Junior pathways are also a crucial foundation for the sport’s growth and creating more opportunities for young riders will be a major focus of the advisory group.
Mr Fulton acknowledged the need to do more work in this space.
“There has been a lack of focus on junior development for many years and all the people who do events are starting to get to the age where they don’t do events any more, we haven’t filled that hole.
“We need to play a more active role in junior development, getting kids into clubs, having programs in schools. We need more people involved in the sport of cycling and junior is the key.”
Track cycling in WA has seen a decline in recent years, as riders gravitate towards other forms of the sport.
WestCycle’s track cycling business unit and advisory group will look at ways to bring people back to the discipline, which has helped develop the State’s strong professional rider base.
Track Cycling WA’s Chris Pratley, Lesley Richardson of Midland Cycle Club, X-Speed Australia’s Mark Williamson, Chris Andrich of VenuesWest, WA Institute of Sport’s Matthew Crampton, former pro cyclist Travis Meyer and masters cycling champion Rebecca Wheadon form the track cycling advisory group.
Mr Fulton said the group would aim to inject new life into track cycling and explore some of the major issues surrounding its diminished popularity.
“We know track cycling is in huge trouble – participation is plummeting, event numbers are plummeting,” he said.
“It has become the dull boring part of cycling, it is what test cricket was years ago. We need to flip that on its head and start looking at what the Twenty20 cricket is of the velodrome.
“We need to start making it more entertainment than sport, bring back the crowds.”
The fact WA only has one velodrome for its 2.5 million people is one of the factors stunting its growth.
Compared to Tasmania, which has nine velodromes, or one for every 57,000 people, WA is falling behind.
Mr Fulton said plans to refurbish outdoor velodromes in Esperance and Collie could help revive the sport.
He said although the Midvale velodrome was world-class, it was still important for entry level riders to have cheaper and geographically closer facilities to get a taste for track cycling.