The Australian elite men’s team is aiming for world titles in both the individual time trial and the road race at the World Championships in Richmond thanks to a strong 11-rider squad of riders that includes Rohan Dennis and Michael Matthews.
National coach Bradley McGee is hoping Dennis can challenge Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin in Wednesday’s 53km time trial, with Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn also riding the event. Durbridge will also ride Sunday’s 260km road race in support of Matthews. Also in the squad are second leader Simon Gerrans, Simon Clarke, Adam Hansen, Matt Hayman, Heinrich Haussler, Mitch Docker and Jay McCarthy.
Dennis, Durbridge and Hepburn have all stood on the podium in the U23 ranks. Dennis set a new Hour Record after winning the Tour Down Under and won the opening time trial at the Tour de France. Hepburn is Oceania Champion, while Durbridge is a former U23 world champion.
"Rohan Dennis is riding a wave of momentum this year, and it is our aim, as the national team, to fully support him in the best way possible," McGee said after confirming the names of the 11-rider elite men’s squad.
"I am also impressed that both Heppy and Durbo have presented themselves in great condition, with hands held high for participation noting that there are no free rides in a World Championships and their performance will be closely analysed.”
American build-up for Dennis
Dennis has spent the past month racing and training in the United States, winning two stages and overall victory at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.
“It's a big bonus already being in America for a month before the race. It means no problems with jet lag or a different climate. I usually don't have a problem with these things but eliminating that possibility eliminates the chance of it actually being an issue,” he said.
"My preparation for worlds has been a little different to other years. I've had a big altitude training block and only a seven-day tour in there. We are trying to find what the best prep is for myself leading into a big TT."
Hepburn will be the first rider off in Wednesday’s time trial, perhaps hoping to take advantage of any changes in the weather. Durbridge is number 46 in the 90-rider start list, with Dennis off fourth from last ahead of Vasil Kiryienka, Tom Dumoulin and Tony Martin.
McGee has carefully studied the 16km road race circuit in Richmond and built the team around protecting Gerrans and especially Matthews. He believes team unity is a key to success.
“The road race course will be deceptive in difficulty in comparison to how the profile reads and will, once again, be somewhat a race of attrition as the kilometres slide past 220,” McGee said. “We are in a very fortunate era to not only have experienced and battle-ready athletes, but to have these athletes willing and eager to ride for their country.
"Each of our nine riders in the road race will have essential roles, and it will be how well they can combine that will decide our overall success. I look forward to our fresh faces in McCarthy and Docker absorbing as much learning as possible from their elders in anticipation for future campaign successes.”
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