Five of the last six Australian Open Road Champions – including defending champion Peter McDonald – will contest next month’s title race in Ballarat, Victoria. Race organiser John Craven said they make up just a small portion of the 600 riders to compete in January, with entries up 45 percent on 2009.
The champions returning to Ballarat’s Buninyong course include Robbie McEwen (2002), Matthew Wilson (2004), Darren Lapthorne (2007), Matthew Lloyd (2008) and McDonald. Other high-profile Australian riders expected on the road race’s start line include Michael Rogers, Allan Davis and Baden Cooke.
“With a combined road race entry of a mammoth 319 riders across the three divisions, I don’t believe there is any doubt about what the competitors think of the Buninyong road race circuit,” Craven said. “These numbers are unprecedented.”
Combined entries for the event have been boosted by the inclusion of the Australian Criterium Championship for the first time. Craven praised the addition of the criterium race, which had previously been held as a part of the Cronulla Grand Prix in Sydney and at Brisbane's Southbank Parkland in 2007.
“These numbers are a great vote of confidence in the move by Cycling Australia and the City of Ballarat to add the Criterium Championships to the program,” said Craven. “Ballarat is poised for a five-day cycling extravaganza of the highest order.”
Current criterium champions Bernard Sulzberger and Kirsty Broun will both try to defend their titles in Ballarat next week. Under 23 World Time Trial Championship medallist Cameron Meyer and former women’s champion Bridie O’Donnell.