Worlds aspirants head to World Cycling Classic

Ballarat event a warm up for Gilbert et al

Many of the world's best riders will head to the Victorian city of Ballarat this Sunday to ride the Herald Sun World Cycling Classic as preparations for next week's UCI Road World Championships in Geelong, Australia, reach a crescendo.

Organisers announced today that the 18-nation men's field includes Australian grand tour stage winner Simon Gerrans (pictured right), world championships favourite Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, a full contingent of Italians including recent Vuelta a España winner Vincenzo Nibali and team leader Filippo Pozzato, plus Norwegians Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thor Hushovd, French Tour de France stage winner Sylvain Chavanel and New Zealander Greg Henderson.

Starting and finishing at Buninyong, the course will travel a 16km circuit with the final lap following the road race course used for the Australian Open Road Championships. There's a 90km race for the women and a 130km hitout for the men - roughly half the distance they will face in the world championships road race on October 3.

A close to full strength Australian women's contingent, including both world championships and Commonwealth Games squad members will compete, along with reigning women's road race world champion Tatiana Guderzo of Italy, who heads the 14-nation women's field. The 2004 world champion Judith Arndt of Germany and her teammate Hanka Kupfernagel, plus 1999 winner Edita Pucinskaite of Lithuania and 2008 time trial world champ Amber Neben (USA) are also entered.

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