Despite withdrawing from the final round of the Jayco Bay Classic criterium series with a touch of bronchitis, Robbie McEwen is hoping to line up for the Australian Open Road Championship at Buninyong near Ballarat, Victoria this coming Sunday. "The course is a bit selective and is always hard in January," said McEwen, who claimed his first Australian title on the tough Buninyong circuit in 2002. "At least you get a worthy champion - the best rider will always win."
The three-time Tour de France green jersey winner could be up against a high class field featuring several European-based professionals including Simon Gerrans, Baden Cooke and Allan Davis plus previous winners Henk Vogels and Matt Wilson. As reported by Cyclingnewson Saturday, some riders elect to miss the championships preferring to concentrate on higher profile European races later in the season. "My training is structured around Milan-San Remo," admitted McEwen. "It's something I really want to aim at."
For 2007, the men's championship has been reduced from 18 to 16 laps, leaving a total race distance of 163.2km. McEwen was instrumental in having the distance cut after he advised championships director John Craven of his views some weeks ago. "You will still get the same result," McEwen said. "This Buninyong course is so hard you won't miss a couple of laps."
A total of 301 riders will contest the six championships held over four days - a record since the open championship concept was introduced into Australian cycling in 1999.
The titles will kick off on Thursday with the men's under 23 and women's time trials, both over 28 kilometres. The open men's 39km time trial is on Friday, followed on Saturday by the men's under 23 road race (122kms) and women's road race (102kms).