A record number of cyclists will line up in next week's Australian Open Road Championships in Mt Torrens, South Australia. The men's road race will feature 151 cyclists (93 elite and 58 U23) while the women's event will see 58 riders vie for the honour of wearing the green and gold national champion's jersey in 2006.
2005 Australian Cyclist of the Year, Robbie McEwen, has his eyes set on the prize of defending his 2005 road race crown but the field is full of potential Australian champions including ProTour riders Allan Davis, Luke Roberts, Cadel Evans, Matthew Hayman and Simon Gerrans along with last year's silver and bronze medallists Paul Crake and Robert McLachlan. The U23 riders in the combined event will be vying for their own jersey and with 2005 champion, Chris Sutton, back in Europe for his first year with ProTour team Cofidis, Victorian Will Walker has his eyes on the win. Last year, Walker claimed the silver medal in the U23 road race at the World Championships in Spain.
The women's field is headed by world ranked number one Oenone Wood, Athens Olympic road champion, Sara Carrigan, sisters Kate and Natalie Bates, Olivia Gollan and 2005 Geelong World Cup winner, Rochelle Gilmore all out to impress.
In the time trial events Queensland's Nathan O'Neill is aiming for his seventh elite men's time trial crown (previous wins 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2005) and world ranked number one Oenone Wood is on track for her third straight victory in the women's event.
The women's time trial is a selection race for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games with the winner securing automatic nomination for the event in March. Two time World Cup Series champion Wood is the top seed but she'll face some tough competition from the likes of Athens Olympic road champion, Sara Carrigan, sisters Kate and Natalie Bates, Olivia Gollan and Barcelona Olympic champion, Kathryn Watt.
The schedule of events in Mt Torrens outlines as follows, with all races starting 10:00 am:
Wednesday, January 11 - Time Trials (Women 27km, Men 40km)
Thursday, January 12 - Rest Day
Friday, January 13 - Women's Road Race 97.5km (5 laps)
Saturday, January 14 - Men's Elite and Men's U23 Road Race 175.5km (9 laps)
Further details can be found on www.aorc.com.au.