Orica GreenEdge will once again send a stacked line-up to the 2013 Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships, January 9-13 in Ballarat.
The team will be defending their men's road race title, won by Simon Gerrans, and also their individual time trial, won by Luke Durbridge. In 2013, a national criterium championship is also on the agenda.
The time trials will open the program in 2013 with a new-look, fully-closed course. Competitors will take in a lap of Lake Wendouree before heading along Sturt Street through the Arch of Victory and along Ballarat's historic Avenue of Honour.
In 2012, Durbridge claimed overall victories in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes and Circuit de la Sarthe, and the individual time trial prologue at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Durbridge was also part of the Orica GreenEdge team, along with Cameron Meyer, which won bronze in the men's team time trial UCI Road World Championships in the Netherlands.
"Certainly, defending my time trial title is definitely one of my big goals for the nationals and it would be fantastic," said Durbridge. "But, I will also be looking to support the team in the road race and maybe even take my own opportunities."
Former teammate Jack Bobridge came to grief on the old course, suffering a large amount of grazing and bruising after a truck passed the South Australian within the first kilometre of racing. Disturbed air from the vehicle forced Bobridge off his rig and onto the tarmac and he was lucky to escape serious injury. Durbridge is happy to see safety take priority in 2013.
"It's crucial for full road closures in the time trial and I am really glad that Cycling Australia have [sic] come to party with that decision," said the former under 23 world champion in the discipline. "It gives riders a lot of peace of mind when you are humming along with your head down at 60kph that you are safe."
The team failed to make the podium in the criterium in 2012 with Baden Cooke their best-placed rider in sixth, giving them extra reason to attack the second event on the program this time around. Michael Matthews who will be making his debut with the team should be a strong contender, as will Leigh Howard.
"As a team, will be going to try to win, to try to claim the title," said Howard.
"As to who will be going for the win, this will be open to any of us that want to have a crack.
"Obviously our main goal is for the Sunday in the road race which will be an extremely hard day and hard race to win but all the same, I think as a team we can do it again this year," he added.
Adding to the Orica GreenEdge line-up of Durbridge, Matthews, Cooke, Gerrans and Howard for the road race will be Simon Clarke, Cameron Meyer, Stuart O'Grady, Matt Goss, Travis Meyer, Mitch Docker, Michael Hepburn and Wes Sulzberger. The event will close out the program on Sunday January 13 with the often-criticised course undergoing changes. In 2013, riders will now contest three loops of a flatter 27.7 kilometre circuit before tackling the famous Buninyong 10.2km circuit a further eleven times for a 195.6km event. In theory, it should make the race more open and accessible for sprinters.
Goss finished as runner-up in 2010 and is hopeful of a strong showing next month.
"It's going to be a fresh outlook and I think the way people approach it will be different so we are going to see a completely different race," he said.
"It leaves it really open and the first time you do anything, no one really knows how it's going to play out.
"I am excited and can hopefully give it a really good crack," Goss added.