ORICA-GreenEDGE injection into Ballarat for Road Nats
Following a stellar debut season in the professional peloton, ORICA-GreenEDGE will be looking to claim back-to-back titles in the men’s road race and time trial, with the team also eager to claim their first men’s national criterium jersey.
It’s almost an impossible task to determine who headlines a team which includes such an array of stars, however reigning champions Simon Gerrans and Luke Durbridge will lay claim to the honours as they look to defend their road and time trial crowns respectively.
Simon Clarke, who gave the team it’s first Grand Tour jersey when he claimed the 2012 Tour of Spain KOM jersey, returns, as does former two-time time trial champion Cameron Meyer, plus 2003 road champion and six-time Olympian Stuart O’Grady.
Former Tour de France green jersey winner Baden Cooke and 2011 world road race silver medalist Matthew Goss will lead the sprinters, while 2010 Under 23 world road race champion Michael Matthews will make his team debut.
The roll out of champions continues with 2012 Tour of Britain stage winner Leigh Howard and 2010 national road champion Travis Meyer, with Michael Hepburn, Mitch Docker and Wesley Sulzberger rounding out the team.
West Australia’s Durbridge will be looking to begin his 2013 season the best way possible with a win on a new-look time trial course when the Championships opens on Wednesday January 9.
In 2012, Durbridge claimed overall victories in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes and Circuit de la Sarthe, and the individual time trial prologue at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Durbridge was also part of the ORICA-GreenEDGE team, along with Cameron Meyer, which won bronze in the men’s team time trial UCI Road World Championships in the Netherlands.
“Certainly, defending my time trial title is definitely one of my big goals for the nationals and it would be fantastic,” said the 21-year-old Durbridge, “But, I will also be looking to support the team in the road race and maybe even take my own opportunities.”
The time trial is the opening event of the Championships on Wednesday January 9, and for the first time in the Championship’s history, they will be contested on a fully closed course. They will take in a lap of Lake Wendouree before heading along Sturt Street through the Arch of Victory and along Ballarat’s historic Avenue of Honour.
“It’s crucial for full road closures in the time trial and I am really glad that Cycling Australia have come to party with that decision,” said Durbridge. “It gives riders a lot of peace of mind when you are humming along with your head down at 60kph that you are safe,” Durbridge remarked.
The second day of the championships will see a twilight criterium raced on a fast CBD circuit and as the only event unclaimed by ORICA-GreenEDGE both the men’s and women’s events in 2012, capturing the green and gold jersey is paramount for the team.
“As a team, will be going to try to win, to try to claim the title,” said Victoria’s Leigh Howard, who wore the leader’s jersey for two stages of the 2012 Tour of Britain.
“As to who will be going for the win, this will be open to any of us that want to have a crack.
“Obviously our main goal is for the Sunday in the road race which will be an extremely hard day and hard race to win but all the same, I think as a team we can do it again this year,” Howard added.
The men’s road race will be contested on Sunday January 13, and like the time trial course, it also received widespread changes, with riders will now contest three loops of a flatter 27.7 kilometre circuit before tackling the famous Buninyong 10.2km circuit a further eleven times.
The changes have extended the men’s race to just shy of 200 kilometres, with the reduction in climbs up the infamous Mt Buninyong intended to open up the race and the winners jersey to a larger section of the peloton.
Tasmania’s Matthew Goss, who finished second behind Jack Bobridge in the 2011 men’s road race, anticipates a new style of road race following the course changes.
“It’s going to be a fresh outlook and I think the way people approach it will be different so we are going to see a completely different race,” said Goss, who has enjoyed tremendous success during the past two seasons with 2011 victories in the Milan-San Remo Classic and stage wins at the Tour Down Under, Paris-Nice, and Tour of California.
Goss also claimed silver at the UCI Road World Championships in Denmark, and in 2012, claimed a stage of the Giro d’Italia before five podium finishes at the Tour de France.
“It leaves it really open and the first time you do anything, no one really knows how it’s going to play out.
“I am excited and can hopefully give it a really good crack,” Goss added.
The ORICA-AIS women’s entries will be announced soon.
The 2013 MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships will be held in Ballarat and Buninyong from Wednesday 9 to Sunday 13 January 2013.