With the first race of 2017 providing early success for ORICA-SCOTT, attention immediately turns to the pursuit of coveted green and gold jerseys at the Mars Cycling Australia National Championships in Ballarat.
The action-packed circuit racing continues with the national criterium championships in the centre of town this evening. Then, the action moves to Buninyong for the time trials on Thursday, 5th January and road races on Sunday, 8 January.
The sport directors preview each of the championships:
TODAY Wednesday, 4 January – Criteriums
Reigning champion Caleb Ewan will line up with confidence from yesterday’s final stage victory at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and the knowledge of last year’s success.
The 22-year-old will not have as many teammates as 2016, but will be joined by ever-reliable lead out man Mitch Docker and workhorse Damien Howson.
“Caleb was unfortunate on the opening stage of the Bay Crits in Geelong but has shown in the last two days that his form is there. He’ll be looking for back-to-back victories but with the growing number of domestic criteriums, there’s plenty of guys hoping to put a stop to that.”
With four of the six representatives coming off the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, including stage winners Amanda Spratt and Jessica Allen, ORICA-SCOTT go into the criterium with confidence and winning form.
Two-time Australian road race champion Gracie Elvin will join the team for the first time in 2017, adding another level of experience, whilst the team will also welcome debutant Georgia Baker.
“We have a number of girls already with intensity in their legs but we also have new fire power with Georgia and Gracie coming in. We expect a small bunch sprint at the conclusion.”
Thursday, 5 January - Time Trials
Two previous winners in Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn will represent ORICA-SCOTT in the time trial on Thursday.
The pair both come off the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, where Hepburn claimed a victory on day two in Portarlington. A lot comes down to feelings on the day, but they will have some stiff competition in reigning champion Rohan Dennis.
“We expect to be competitive in the time trial. Neither Luke or Michael have prepared specifically for the event, but have both shown they are in good form coming off the Bay Crits. Rohan Dennis will go in as the favourite.”
Reigning champion and world championship bronze medallist Katrin Garfoot returns to defend her title and will be the clear favourite to beat on Thursday.
“Kat has carried a fair bit of form on from the world championships and she is really keen to go for the title again to start off the year really strongly. Alex hasn’t done any specific preparation for the time trial but it’s something we’d like to target with her in the future and it’s a good starting point.”
Sunday, 8 January – Road Races
ORICA-SCOTT will start the men’s road race with their smallest contingent in history due to family priorities, injuries/illnesses and varying season programs.
But there’s no shortage of experience with two previous winners in Simon Gerrans (2012 and 2014) and Luke Durbridge (2013) amongst the group.
“We definitely have our smallest team ever and I predict that a break will win this year, particularly after everyone saw Jack Bobridge last year. Teams like IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness, who have twice as many riders as us, will have the numerical advantage and can put numbers into the break. We will look to be represented but also to have options should the commitment to make it work not be there.”
ORICA-SCOTT will start with eight representatives in the women's road race including previous winners Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt. With cards to play, the outift will be looking to take the green and gold jersey to Europe in 2017.
“On a course like this is comes down to legs, not numbers and we saw that two years ago when Peta Mullens won. This year, we’ll play a similar game to last year. We have a few riders that could take out the title based on form and fitness coming in.”
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