The 2014 Australian National Road Championships will once again take place in and around Ballarat in regional Victoria from January 8-12, 2014. The road race has been shortened with the removal of the 25km loop which was introduced last year. The time trial has been moved from Lake Wendouree to the town of Burrumbeet, 23km from Ballarat city centre while the criterium course remains unchanged.
All races in 2014 will be shortened with the elite men to cover 183km in 18 laps of the circuit. The combined women's elite and under 23 race is a 103km affair over ten laps while the men's under 23 race is three laps longer and 132.6km in length.
The major change for the course from this year has been the removal of a 25km loop before entering the circuit. Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) won both the road race and time trial in 2013 and in doing so became the first male in the professional era to win both races in the same year
Durbridge is keen to defend his title and will be a favourite even with the change in the course as he will have a strong Orica-GreenEdge team providing support.
"It means a great deal for Australian cyclists, we really covet the green and gold [national] jersey," said Durbridge who also completed his first Grand Tour in 2013 – the Giro d'Italia, and won silver in the team time trial at the UCI World Championships.
"I'm quite patriotic and I really enjoyed the experience of riding the Giro and Paris-Roubaix in the jersey."
For the first time the men's race will feature two full-strength professional teams in Durbridge's UCI Pro Tour Team ORICA-GreenEdge, and Drapac Professional Cycling, which will be contesting its first event as a Pro-Conti team.
It will be seven years between drinks for Darren Lapthorne at the national championships but the 30-year-old is not shying away from the task facing himself and the rest of the Drapac Professional Cycling team this January. Lapthorne was victorious in 2007, riding away in the final laps of the event to overpower teammate Robert McLachlan who finished 15 seconds in arrears.
"If I didn't think it was possible, I wouldn't be riding," Lapthorne said in Melbourne at the launch of the event on Thursday.
"It's definitely a goal, I'd love to repeat [the win]. I'm training as hard as ever. I've changed a few things. I'm approaching this year a lot differently than I have in the past."
The 22-year-old Durbridge will be looking to become just the second male in the professional era to win three consecutive time trial championships when he sets out on the new technically challenging Burrumbeet course on January 8.
"My focus is going to be on the time trial, I'd love to go three in a row," explained Durbridge. "I love wearing the national colours over in Europe, and I look forward to checking out the new course."
Recently elected Cycling Australia president Gerry Ryan is anticipating another successful championships and is encouraging cycling fans to take in the live spectacle.
"The Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships is the pinnacle of the Australian road cycling calendar and we look forward to delivering yet another world class event in conjunction with the City of Ballarat and MARS," said Ryan.
"The Championships provide an unparalleled opportunity for Australian cycling fans to see the nation's, and the world's, best cyclists on home soil battling for the prestige of the green and gold."
In the women's event, South Australia's Carlee Taylor will make her debut with an Orica-AIS team eager to continue its impressive performance which has captured five of six national championships in its first two years.
"I've won two under 23 women's championships on that course, which is always is a race of attrition, but it is one that suits me," said Taylor.
"On that type of course, it's really beneficial when you have a strong team. In the past they [ORICA-AIS] have always raced so well and I've always been against that, so I'm looking forward to racing next year as part of the ORICA-AIS team."
2014 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships Schedule, 8 – 14 January
Wednesday 8 – Time Trials – U23 & Elite Men’s Time Trial, U23 & Elite Women’s Time Trial
Thursday 9 – Criteriums - U23 & Elite Men's Criterium, U23 & Elite Women's Criterium
Saturday 11 – Road Race - U23 Men’s Road Race, U23 & Elite Women’s Road Race
Sunday 12 – Road Race - Elite Men’s Road Race