Reigning Jayco Herald Sun Tour champion Calvin Watson (Trek) and 2010 Giro d'Italia mountain classification winner Matthew Lloyd (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis) have been announced as late inclusions for the 2014 Jayco Herald Sun Tour which starts on Wednesday.
Recent World Tour debutants Caleb Ewan (NSW) and Bradley Linfield (WA) have withdrawn themselves from the Jayco Australia under-23 National Team ahead of next week's Herald Sun Tour.
Ewan (fatigue) and Linfield (illness) represented Australia in the UniSA team last week at the Santos Tour Down Under before nominating not to ride the up-coming Sun Tour.
Watson and Lloyd will line up for KordaMentha Real Estate – Team Australia while Thomas Hamilton and Robert Jon McCarthy have been transferred to the younger squad, paving the way for the inclusion of Watson and Lloyd.
Watson created history last year, becoming the youngest ever winner of the Sun Tour, taking out the 60th edition of the event on his 20th birthday with an impressive display on the final stage at Arthurs Seat.
The performance put the now 21-year-old on the map, and was a key catalyst in his signing with WorldTour outfit Trek Factory Racing where he will ride alongside the likes of Fabian Cancellara and the Schleck brothers in 2014.
Initially not fitting in the team's racing schedule for their new recruit, Watson is thrilled with the late opportunity to defend his title.
"I am excited to be back," Watson said. "At first when I thought that I wasn't going to be returning I was quite disappointed. It is always nice to return to your home race as the defending champion so I am really happy to be back and am excited to get the racing underway."
"Winning the Herald Sun Tour last year was a massive moment for me. It's led to me signing a professional contract with Trek Factory Racing so it's definitely changed my life and now I have the opportunity to race in the WorldTour.
"That's what you dream of doing and I'm going to make the most of the opportunity. I haven't worn number one in a race for a long time and to do it in such a quality field will be quite cool."
"I'm pretty unsure about my ambitions to try and defend my title. I am going to give it 110 per cent to try and win again but realistically there are some really strong riders coming back this year.
"Simon Gerrans and the whole GreenEdge team is going to be really strong this year and they showed at the Tour Down Under that they are all in top condition and also guys like Nathan Haas and team Garmin Sharp – it's a really top quality field this year so it's not going to a walk in the park."
Having suffered two crashes in the past month, the first a training incident and the second during the recent Tour Down Under, Ewan has conceded in his fight against the clock to get his body right for Australia's oldest stage race.
"It was going to be a pretty big January if I rode the Herald Sun Tour and I want to make sure I get to Europe fresh because that's my main goal for the season," Ewan said.
"I'm pretty tired, I had a little fall before Bay Crits and again at TDU so I think it's better to let my body have a rest and make sure I'm all good before heading over to Europe."
Updated national Cycling Australia teams
Jayco u23 National Team: Robert Power (WA), Harry Carpenter (SA), Sam Spokes (NSW), Alex Clements (TAS), Robert-Jon McCarthy (SA) and Thomas Hamilton (VIC)
KordaMentha Team Australia: Calvin Watson (VIC), Matthew Lloyd (VIC), Glenn O’Shea (SA), Pat Shaw (VIC), Chris Jory (NSW) and Matthew Clarke (VIC)