By Les Clarke
This week's Australian Open Road Championships will undoubtedly demonstrate the depth of cycling in this nation. With some of the world's best contending for the honour of wearing the national champion's jersey throughout 2009, the race is set to be a typically tough test of attrition for the 134 starters.
In previous years the event has thrown up some surprises, although with a return to rural Victoria the stars have shone brightly. Matt Lloyd's performance in last year's championships illustrated the class this Victorian possesses, while Oenone Wood's second national title in her swan song year underlined the immense talent she brought to the ranks of Australian women's cycling.
This year there are even more big names to light up the roads of Ballarat in the showcase event, the men's road race, with Michael Rogers making a welcome return to the championships. After battling illness in 2008 before making a stunning comeback with sixth in the Olympic Games road race, Rogers will be looking for support from Columbia teammates Adam Hansen and Mark Renshaw, who will line up for the 163.2km event.
This trio will be up against defending champion Lloyd, who further proved his one-day pedigree with a fourth place against a quality field in the Giro dell'Emilia last October. Another young Victorian who has impressed in Europe for the last two seasons, Trent Lowe, will also ride the championships. The Garmin-Slipstream rider is being touted as a future ProTour event winner and should perform well on home turf.
Check out Cyclingnews' coverage of the Australian Open Road Cycling Championships.