Having animated Wednesday's national criterium title, Jay McCarthy will start Sunday's Australian national road race as an outside threat to Orica-GreenEdge's ambition of taking home the green and gold jersey. At 23, McCarthy is one of the younger riders in the WorldTour peloton yet the Australian is embarking on his fourth year with Tinkoff Team and is looking to ensure this year will be his best start to a season yet.
"Hopefully I am in good enough shape and make some good decisions out there on the day and I can follow the right guys and watch Gerro, Richie, Rohan Dennis and those guys who can light it up on the last few laps and hopefully I am feeling good enough to go with them," McCarthy told Cyclingnews of his approach to the 183km race.
McCarthy will be the sole Tinkoff rider on the startline with heart issues sidelining teammate Michael Rogers indefinitely. In 2013 McCarthy was sixth with Jonathan Cantwell as his only support and with several years of WorldTour racing under his belt, including two Giro d'Italia's, a top-five result is well within reach.
Regardless of his final result on Sunday afternoon, McCarthy will head across to Adelaide to join his teammates for the Tour Down Under. Unsure exactly what the team's ambition is for the race, McCarthy is confident he will have further opportunity to pursue his personal ambitions.
"I'll head over there [Adelaide] and meet up with them and see what the plans are for Tour Down Under but hopefully I’ll go in there with the chance to have a go for myself and have the team to support me. I am looking forward to having a good race there also," he said.
"Of course Tour Down Under and being in Australia, being with the team in the last few years there hasn’t been such an emphasis on me going so well at the start of the year and taking it a bit slower to begin with, but now I have a few seasons under my belt I think its time that I can have a go here and at Tour Down Under and then the way the team has designed my programme, I’ll have a few weeks when I get back to Europe before I start racing over there."
During his time with the team, McCarthy has had limited opportunity to ride for himself although third place overall at the 2015 Tour of Turkey was evidence that when given the chance, he can deliver. At the start of his fourth season in the professional ranks, McCarthy explained that he feels the year ahead could well be his best yet.
"This last 12 months in the team I felt a lot more comfortable and it’s becoming a lot easier. The races aren’t becoming easier but I think I am maturing and able to handle a little more," he said. "I think coming into this season, 2016, I am more confident and hopefully I can use that confidence and go for some really good results."
Following the Tour Down Under, McCarthy heads back to Europe with a small break before he resumes racing again with a third Giro appearance on the cards.
"I’ll do Ruta del Sol then have a bit of a mix between the cobbled classics and Ardennes stuff, couple of some tours before I probably head into the Giro d’Italia. I hope it’s a smooth start to the year and after Tour Down Under I’ll have a couple of weeks were I can step back a little bit and then get ready for the European season."