Reigning Australian Road Cycling champion Darren Lapthorne will return to the scene of his greatest triumph when the Timbercorp Cup National Series continues this weekend as part of the Australian Cycling Grand Prix. Lapthorne won the national title on the tough Buninyong circuit outside of Ballarat in January this year and will be the nominal favourite in the field of 100 for the third leg of the ACGP.
The three day Grand Prix series starts on August 17 with individual time trials in Learmonth, followed by criterium street racing in Ballarat on Saturday before Sunday’s grueling 153 kilometre road classic. The Buninyong route is well known in cycling circles and has been used in previous major events.
Queensland’s Grant Irwin is currently second in the Timbercorp Cup National Series, which started earlier this month with the Tour of Gippsland, four points shy of Zak Dempster (Vic). Dempster headed overseas last week for the World Under 23 Championships and will almost certainly lose his grip on the Timbercorp lead. Dempster won last year's ACGP Time Trial from David Pell and Mitch Docker and the latter two riders are expected to clinch victory on Friday. Docker was the best overall rider in last year's ACGP after his third placing in the ITT, second in the criterium and a fourth in the road race.
More than 320 entries have been received for the ACGP events, with Kathy Watt headlining the female races. But the former Australian Olympian won't have everything her own way, particularly in the criterium where young Victorian Jessica Berry will start as defending champion.
Another young rider to watch will be Tasmanian Grace Sulzberger, little sister of topliners Bernard and Wesley Sulzberger, both former winners of the Sid Patterson Young Rider of the Future award.
The Timbercorp Cup National Series has replaced – in name only – the 11 year-old Tattersall's Cup and the modified points scoring system includes the Tour of Gippsland, the ACGP, Tour of the Murray River (August 26 – September 2) and the Tour of Tasmania (October 2-7). Seven of the current top 12 riders in the series have entered for the Ballarat action, including Grant Irwin, Chris Jory, Patrick Shaw, Peter McDonald, Ben Mather, Steven Robb and Nicholas Sanderson.