By Paul Verkuylen
Australia's top domestic squads are preparing for the second round of the Australian National Road Series, which gets underway this Friday in Tasmania. The race doubles as the first Junior World Championship team selection race, with the team heading to South Africa later this year to contest the championships.
The three stage event, held over three days in Tasmania's Mersey Valley will see riders from all over Australia compete for the title. Top domestic based squads including FRF-NSWIS, Savings & loans, Praties, Virgin Blue, Bike King and South Australia.com-AIS have confirmed their attendance.
"We are using the event to build up to our main goals of the season," team director Andy Portess told Cyclingnews. "It is good to see that the series is getting the support of the Australian-based teams and it should be some good racing."
The event comprises of a 28 km time trial and a 110 km road stage on the Saturday. On Sunday the men will contest a gruelling 135km final stage in the hills which surround the Mersey Valley. The women will follow a similar route, beginning with a 16km time trial, a 68km stage on Saturday and 82km on Sunday.
Ex-Slipstream rider Ben Johnson will head up a strong FRF-NSWIS squad, which includes Peter Herzig, Chris Jory and Joe Lewis. It will be faced with some strong competition from riders such as Russell van Hout (Savings & Loans), Mark Jamieson (SouthAustralia.com-AIS) and Nathan Clarke (Praties) who is making his comeback to racing after several seasons on the side line.
The Under 19's section should see some tough racing with Roan Dennis and Under 19 World Kilo Champion Thomas Palmer taking to the start. Dennis has apparently switched his focus from the short sprint events to road racing. Organisers expect local favourite Andrew Smith to put a good fight for the overall.
In the women's event the recently named Amy Gillet Scholarship award winner Carly Taylor will be lining up as one of the favourites to take out the event.
See Cyclingnews.com across the weekend for full daily coverage of the event.