The organisers of the The Sundowner – the long-running annual cycling race from Coonabarabran to Gunnedah – have finally embraced the digital age to give the event a boost.
But at the same time, the architect of that new approach frets for the sport’s future in Gunnedah ahead of Saturday’s race.
Nathan Browne, in his first year as race coordinator of the Keegan Downes Memorial Sundowner Handicap Cycling Classic, has used his skills as an IT professional to increase the number of competitors in Saturday’s race by about 40 – with 113 riders set to take part in the 100 kilometre race.
“I just think we’re more organised (this year), and I got word out a bit better using different channels of communications,” he said.
“I’m more tech savvy (than previous race organisers), so I was using digital platforms like emails and Facebook – just all those forms of communications.”
Browne said he had mixed those digital promotion methods with traditional communication tools such as phone calls and letter writing.
“They (Cycling NSW) always promote it, but if we don’t do anything we don’t get the numbers,” he said.
“So it’s an effort from both ends.”
Browne added: “My background is in IT, so I’m always looking at different ways of getting the message out there … Each year it becomes a little bit easier once you know what you are doing.”
Despite all his promotional efforts, Browne admitted there would be far fewer competitors if The Sundowner did not precede Sunday’s Gunnedah to Tamworth road race.
Both events “went hand in hand”.
“It’s sort of a combined effort to get both events up and running,” he said.
“I do a fair bit of cycling in Tamworth. I’m actively involved in their racing.
“That helps in communications between the two events.
“We do most of the heavy lifting and Cycling NSW put their name on it.
“We give them a fair bit of money to just put their badge on it, to be honest.”
Browne has named Daniel Alcock (Coffs Harbour Cycle Club), Glenn Mathiske (Manning Valley Cycle Club) and Samuel Hill (Hunter District Cycle Club) as the riders to beat.
But while Browne, who competed in this year’s Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic, is optimistic about The Sundowner’s future, he is decidedly less bullish about cycling’s future in Gunnedah.
He has blamed the sport’s decline, in large part, on parents not being willing to devote the time needed to support their children cycling.
He said there were “about seven” Gunnedah riders entered in Saturday’s race but according to the official entry list, he is the only competitor from Gunnedah Cycling and Triathlon Club.
“Parents don’t want to spend time on kids cycling,” he said.
“It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of development.
“I don’t know how to change that for the future. It is a difficult one.”