Mitchelton-Scott hunting gold medals at Australian championships

Ewan, Meyer and Durbridge aiming to add to past wins

Mitchelton-Scott will line out at this week's Australian national championships in Ballarat and Buninyong with a number of riders aiming for green and gold jerseys.

Caleb Ewan will be aiming for a third straight criterium title while Luke Durbridge and Cameron Meyer will also be chasing further green and gold success.

The women's squad also features a number of past champions including defending criterium champion Jessica Allen, and road race champion Amanda Spratt and Gracie Elvin. Alex Manly has also tasted national success at U23 level is looking for more success.

The quest for gold begins Wednesday night in Ballarat with Ewan to call upon Durbridge, Alex Edmondson, Lucas Hamilton and former champion Meyer for support. Anything less than a win will be a disappointment according to sports director Matt Wilson.

"I'm definitely going into the criterium to try to defend my title," said Ewan. "We should have a really good team there so I think we have a pretty good chance."

The women's team is likewise aiming for gold with former winner Sarah Roy, Elvin, Spratt and Cooks to support Allen.

"There are a lot of strong riders who can win, but I also think any of my teammates can win it too," said Allen. "I am motivated to defend the titles and keep the jersey in the team, whether it's on my shoulders or one of my teammates."

With neither former men's time trial champions Michael Hepburn and Meyer and former medallist Damien Howson not racing against the clock, Mitchelton-Scott is solely backing in Durbidge. Having pushed Rohan Dennis in 2017, the two-time champion is again aiming for the gold.

"I would like my time trial to become more of a strength again so it's important to do as many as you can," said Durbridge. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of racing some of the best time trial riders in the world with Rohan (Dennis) and Richie (Porte) setting the bar at the moment."

As defending women's champion Katrin Garfoot has moved on from Mitchelton-Scott, Alex Manly and Lucy Kennedy will be the two representatives for the team against the clock.

"Alex has had a different preparation this year, focussing on the track with Commonwealth Games coming up, so there is no great pressure on her for this race but we are keen for her to focus on the discipline in the future," sports director Gene Bates said. "Similarly, Lucy has shown time trial ability in the past and we think she can do well in the future so it's a good opportunity to race a high-level time trial because there aren't many on the program now."

For the men's road race, Jack Haig is the only Australian who won't be lining out having stayed in Europe for the early-season. However, the nine-strong team includes Durbridge, Meyer, Ewan, Edmondson, Hamilton, Hepburn, Damien Howson, Robert Power, and Mat Hayman. The team hasn't won the national title since 2014 with Wilson hungry for a return to the top step of the podium.

"This year will offer a different dynamic for the road race given BMC Racing's numbers and quality. I still think the race will play around what we do, but they have massive cards to play," said Wilson of the 185.6km race.

"As always if an early break went with the right composition it could win, but with two strong teams to control it adds a different element. It's one of those races that is always a bit of a gamble, but one we'd always love to win."

With 2015 the one year the women's team has failed to win the green and gold jersey, Bates is confident his team can continue its winning ways in the road race. Allen, Crooks, Elvin, Kennedy, Manly, Roy and Spratt will line out for the 104.4km race on Sunday morning.

"I don't think the course will make too much of a difference, we have one less lap which means the action will start a little earlier and the shorter distance than our overseas also plays a part in that," added Bates, highlighting a trio of former riders capable of causing an upset.

"We have good riders in good shape who are used to racing as a team and that will be our advantage against other strong riders in Shara Gillow, Katrin Garfoot and Rachel Neylan for example. We don't have a one rider plan, everyone will have an opportunity."

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