By Paul Verkuylen
Reigning Australian Road Cycling champion Darren Lapthorne will return to the scene of his greatest triumph this Sunday when the Australian Cycling Grand Prix visits the Buninyong circuit outside of Ballarat for the final stage of the event.
The three-day Grand Prix series starts tomorrow with an individual time trial for both men and women in Learmonth, followed by a criterium in Ballarat on Saturday before Sunday's gruelling 153-kilometre road classic. The Buninyong route is well known in cycling circles and has been used in previous major events.
With current leader in the Timbercorp Cup, Zak Dempster in Europe preparing for the under 23 World Championships, Queenslander Grant Irwin will be looking to capitalize on his absence to take over the series lead. But he will face some tough competition from Chris Jory, who has been riding strongly over the past few months and with the strong FRF-NSWIS team around him, including Peter McDonald ands John Ebeling, Jory will likely try to put pressure on Irwin, hoping to leapfrog him into first place.
Having recently returned from some top level European racing in Italy and Austria, Drapac Porsche should have a number of riders in good form, which should see the racing being tough right from the gun. Favourites for the time trial would have to be David Pell and Mitch Docker, both of whom have finished strongly in this event before, with Docker being the defending champion of the Grand Prix.
In the women's event, former Olympian Kathy Watt will be closely watched, but with a strong field including Jessica Berry and Grace Sulzberger lining up, she will find the racing tough.
More than 320 entries have been received for the ACGP events, for more information see the official website.