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Could there be a better way to kick off the new year than with a no-holds-barred criterium at Geelong's Eastern Beach? We think not! The annual Jayco Bay Cycling Classic begins January 1 and once again some of the fastest men and women in the world will take on the four-race series.
The 'Bay Crits' mark the start of the start of the Australian summer of cycling and is an important marker ahead of the Mars Cycling Australia Road National Championships (January 5-10) and the Santos Tour Down Under (January 15-22).
In its 23rd year, the Bay Crits has the added prestige of being the debut race for WorldTour neophytes, GreenEdge who will be lead by defending men's champion, Matt Goss. While the Milan-San Remo-winner is playing down his own chances of making it back-to-back victories, GreenEdge boasts plenty of speed with Goss joined by tried and tested lead out man and former HTC-Highroad teammate Leigh Howard, six-time winner of the series Robbie McEwen,Wes Sulzberger and Mitch Docker.
Adding a twist to the competition will be the inclusion of four other GreenEdge squad members under line up under the Mitchelton Wineries – Lowe Farms banner. Led by 2004 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic and 2003 Tour de France green jersey-winner Baden Cooke, the Mitchelton Wineries – Lowe Farm's team will turn to 2010 Commonwealth Games champion Allan Davis to match the speed of Goss and 2011 U23 time trial champion Luke Durbridge to challenge the grunt of the experienced McEwen. World team pursuit champion Michael Hepburn will be at home at the world's fastest criterium series whilst 20-year-old Jayco-AIS rider Patrick Lane will complete the five-man team.
If GreenEdge are to head into season 2012 on the right foot, they'll need to overcome plenty of stiff competition with the biggest threat likely to come from the Bike Bug outfit, consisting of Tour de France stage winner Heinrich Haussler, Nathan Haas who took out the Jayco Herald Sun Tour and National Road Series in 2011, Launceston to New Norfolk Classic winner Steele Von Hoff along with Genesys Wealth Advisers pair Anthony Giacoppo and Alex Carver.
Having recently reigned supreme at the NSW Grand Prix Series, CJ Sutton who will line up for Urban Hotels alongside Bert de Backer, Koen de Kort, Richard Lang, and Bernie Sulzberger could also be a threat. Sutton is a previous winner at the event, having won in 2010 from Greg Henderson.
The New Zealander returns in 2012 for the Degani squad, with Grafton to Inverell champion Mark Jamieson, Johnnie Walker and Dean Windsor in support.
Expect an equally tough showdown in the women's series with Rochelle Gilmore's BikeExchange Dream Team – victors the past three years - going head-to-head with a highly competent outfit from Pitcher Partners. A win for Gilmore would give her the new women's record for total overall victories in Geelong, ahead of Anna Wilson (1996, 1998, 1999).
The BikeExchange Dream Team has already had a successful start to the summer of Australian racing with victory at the Noosa Grand Prix and the NSW Grand Prix Series with the Bay Crits marking Gilmore's return from a prolonged injury battle. The Commonwealth Games road champion will be joined by workhorse Miffy Galloway, 2009 overall winner Kristy Broun and 2008 world and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke.
Looking to stop their dominant run will be Pitcher Partners which still looks strong despite the recent retirement of team stalwart Kate Bates. The Sydney-based former champion will now manage the team. Following her tenacious victory at the Cronulla event of the NSW Grand Prix Series and in October on the opening stage of the Honda Hybrid Women's Tour, Sue Forsyth will be keen for another strong showing.
Another of the Pitcher Partners squad having a strong summer is Trudy Van Der Straaten who finished 2nd at the Noosa Grand Prix and 4th at the Wollongong event of the NSW Grand Prix Series – the criterium specialist will no doubt be keen to make her mark on the four race series around Geelong. Meantime, Annette Edmondson will step in for Bates, while Elizabeth Phillipou and Isabella King round out the aggressive squad
GreenEdge's women's outfit will also be keen to begin their season to a winning start, led by Tour de Feminin stage winners Amanda Spratt and Melissa Hoskins, Giro Donne stage winner Shara Gillow who will be using the event as a warm-up to her national time trial defence, along with Jessie Maclean who recently won the Wollongong event of the NSW Grand Prix Series. 2011 Jayco Bay Cycling Classic stage winner Tiffany Cromwell rounds out the team built for speed.
Others to watch include Bek Wiasak and Allison Rice for Suzuki-Trek, former under 23 national criterium champion Chloe Hosking and Loren Rowney (Total Rush-Hyster)
How it works:
Stage Winner -
The Stage winner is the first past the post for each individual Stage. Points of 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 will be given each day for the first ten placegetters. The Overall Winner of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic will be the rider with the most points from all the races at the finish on the final day.
Teams Classification -
Based on collective points of the first three riders per team each day.
Sprint Champion -
Collective points for the intermediate sprints held each day are 3, 2 and 1. This is a separate race inside the race and does not count for the Overall Classification.