2022 UCI Cycling Road World Championships puts Wollongong on the world stage

When Josie Talbot heard her hometown of Wollongong would be the host city for the 2022 UCI Cycling Road World Championships, she promised to do everything she could to be a part of it.

But even after securing her spot in the Australian team by winning her first elite title at the Oceania Road Championships in April, the 26-year-old said it still didn’t feel real.

“I actually couldn’t believe it,” Talbot said.

“I put in so much hard work, and it takes a lot of self-belief to win bike races. It is a really hard thing to win.”

Talbot is one of more than 1,000 elite riders who will converge on Wollongong for one of the most fiercely contested events on the international cycling calendar.

The eight-day event starts on Sunday.

“Obviously, my parents are absolutely thrilled, and all my friends and family will be on the sidelines cheering, which is really cool,” said Talbot.

‘Cycling’s World Cup’
The world championships form part of the “Triple Crown” of international cycling, along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.

“This is the biggest event that will hit the city of Wollongong in its history — and I am not exaggerating by saying that,” veteran cycling commentator Mike Tomalaris said.

“This is cycling’s World Cup of football, cycling’s NRL grand final, cycling’s Wimbledon.”

Wollongong’s population is forecast to double in size during the race period, while up to 300 million viewers are expected to tune in to watch the world’s best battle for the rainbow jersey.

The world championships are worth $95 million to the NSW economy and are the fruit of three years of work between Wollongong Council, the state government and event organisers.

“To have it in Australia is very special, only the second time, but it is only the 10th time it has been outside of Europe in 100 years, so it is a very special moment to be hosting this event,” Wollongong22 chief executive Stu Taggart said.

The event will, however, be slightly different from the last time it was hosted on Australian soil.

For the first time, the elite men’s and women’s time trials are being held on the same day and have the same course length.

In an effort to improve professional pathways for young female riders, the winner of the under-23 women’s races will win the Rainbow Jersey and a gold medal for the first time,

Cycling part of ‘lifestyle city’ transformation

Hosting the event can be viewed as the culmination of Wollongong’s investment in cycling — which was recognised last year when the city became Australia’s only UCI Bike City.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the city had an industrial past but embraced its changing identity, with cycling seen as a key part of the future.

“It has been focused on being part of the heavy industry of Australia, but Wollongong is now shifting towards being a lifestyle city, and this is just part of the process,” he said.

“[The championships] is not just a sugar hit at the end of September.

“It will have implications for investment in cycling infrastructure. It will also put Wollongong on the map.”

The racing festival is also an opportunity for the city’s large multicultural community to reconnect with their roots.

Carly Rogers Hamilton is part of the Dutch community and sees the event as a chance for her children to connect with their European ancestry.

“I think when you are seeing those cyclists from your background, whether it be the Dutch or the Aussies, it just really gives you that encouragement and motivation,” she said.

“Unless you get the opportunity to go over to Europe and experience it firsthand yourself, having it here right on our doorstep is really an honour.”

Meanwhile, Josie Talbot says the event will be incredibly important in building interest in cycling in younger generations.

“People always talk about their first experience of watching a bike race as a junior, and so many stories came out of watching the world championships in Melbourne,” she said.

“I am sure there will be many young cyclists who will be inspired by having so many world-class athletes in their town.”