Six-time Jayco Bay Cycling Classic winner Robbie McEwen will return to the event when it begins in Geelong, Australia, on January 2.
The late decision to line up in the race came after his planned spot as marquee rider on the Pegasus Sports squad fell through and he was thrown a career lifeline by Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team.
Additionally, with a place in the team's lineup for the Tour Down Under made available and his usual plans to prepare for the season with club competition under threat due to inclement weather, McEwen needed to find some racing and decided that the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic would suit that purpose.
"With the weather we have had up here in Queensland, I've been able to get out training but all our club races have been cancelled. It's not just raining every weekend, but every day," McEwen explained.
"Those club races on a Sunday are an important part of my preparation coming into the season. I haven't been able to ride any at all, they've all been cancelled," he added.
"The Aussie blokes that are here and are able to ride them have a big advantage over the Euro guys by having a few days of racing in your legs. They might only be an hour but they're super intense and they really kick start your form."
In last year's Jayco Bay Classic, McEwen rode his first race in more than seven months after a forgettable 2009 season ended prematurely with a broken leg. He finished the series in fifth spot behind winner Chris Sutton, New Zealander Greg Henderson and arch rivals Graeme Brown and Baden Cooke, all of whom will return in 2011.
His best placing in any stage was a third in the opening leg, something he hopes to improve on, but given he hasn't yet had one race, he feels he is giving some of the field a head start.
"You have guys who did the five-day series in NSW; those guys have got the extra step in front of all the guys who haven't raced yet. Those guys will come in best at the Bay Crits," said McEwen.
"It would be great to grab a stage win but I know I will be riding in the Jayco team and one of my teammates is Leigh Howard. He finished his 2010 season quite early in September and started training early, rode the track World Cup and has already got good form so I think we can team up well."
McEwen will join the likes of U23 world champion Michael Matthews (Urban Hotel Group), Commonwealth Games champion Allan Davis (Bikebug.com), Mark Renshaw (O2 Networks), 2010 Giro d'Italia best young rider Richie Porte, and Baden Cooke (Lowe Farms / Bomaroo Nurseries) and Tasmanian trio Matthew Goss, Wesley and Bernie Sulzberger (E3/ Pure Tasmania) announced last week. More riders will be announced in the coming days.
2011 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic stages
January 2 (Round 1): Geelong - Eastern Park
January 3 (Round 2): Portarlington
January 4 (Round 3): Geelong - Ritchie Blvd
January 5 (Round 4): Williamstown