IT was already a highlight of the cycling calendar in New South Wales, but now the weekend of the Bathurst Cycling Classic is set to get even bigger.
For the first time in 2021 the event will feature a new stage race, known as the Bathurst Tour, which will incorporate each of the three individual events regularly staged as part of the classic.
The hill climb, criterium and Bathurst to Bathurst road race will now be run together as a single tour. It will be the first senior tour run in the state for eight years and Cycling NSW chief executive officer Graham Seers can't wait to see it unfold.
"Tours have have always been a part of New South Wales and the cycling infrastructure, you'd often have tours held throughout New South Wales, you'd go away on the Friday and race for X, Y, Z there might be three or four different stages," he said.
"But there is nothing on the New South Wales calendar now that offers the same opportunity so when it [Bathurst Tour] was discussed we all went 'Bingo, that's it.'
"To have the classic within the tour adds another element to it, it's a really good idea."
In the past a number of riders have contested each of the three individual races over the course of the weekend, but the creation of the Bathurst Tour is expect to lure more into doing so.
There will be six divisions - three for females and three for males - contested as part of the tour with the victor to be the most consistently performed across each of the three cycling disciplines.
"Rather than running it like the Tour de France which runs on time for each stage, it will be run on a points style. That means for riders that even if they don't win the hill climb, they could still win the Bathurst Classic and win the tour," Seers said.
"If it was done on time in the hill climb it would mean the gaps started and people might stop racing, but by having it as a points set up, it will keep it competitive right through until the end of the Sunday."
The addition of the Bathurst Tour to the program is not the only change for the 2021 edition of the Bathurst Classic.
The hill climb will, for the first time, use the Mount Panorama circuit. Riders will tackled a 3.2 kilometre leg burner which will finish at Brock's Skyline and instead of being on Saturday morning, will be held on the Friday afternoon.
"This year the hill climb is on the Mount Panorama circuit for the first time ever. It's going to start on the edge of Pit Straight and then go straight up the top to McPhillamy, so the riders get to ride a time trial up one of the most iconic climbs in the world," Seers enthused.
The criterium will move from the Bathurst CBD to Mount Panorama, it will be a four-corner course run around the pit complex on Saturday. It will only be open to riders contesting the Bathurst Tour.
As for Sunday's Bathurst to Bathurst road race, the 100 kilometre course will start in the CBD, feature a lap of Mount Panorama before continuing to Gormans Hill Road and out to Rockley, via Lagoon.
Cyclists will then cross to Trunkey Creek Road and return to town via Georges Plains and Perthville and head back into the CBD.
Seers revealed that another element could be added to the road race as well.
"We are trying to create a hill climb event within the classic event, that adds like that Tour de France king of the mountain, queen of the mountain element to it," he said.
Entries for the Bathurst Tour have thus far have "been progressive" but as the event draws closer Seers anticipates the number of starters will increase.
He also said Cycling NSW is closely monitoring the COVID-19 restrictions when it comes to setting the final limit for registrations.
"It's been a sell out in the recreational ride, but bike riders are traditionally slow with doing their entries, particularly with something that's four months away," he said.
"But we're confident those entries will continue to come and we are also confident there's a chance that we'll be able to ease restrictions and have more people in the race, we are following that closely each day.
"The potential is there if it opens up we could have 100 elite rides in the A grade, in cat one, you just don't know what's going to happen."