Reigning Jayco Bay Cycling Classic champions Graeme Brown and Kristy Broun will return to defend their titles at this year’s series in Geelong. The two riders headline a star-studded field that includes former Tour de France green jersey winners – and former series winners – Robbie McEwen and Baden Cooke, plus current Under 23 time trial world champion Jack Bobridge.
Bobridge will replace Stuart O’Grady in the SASI Team O’Grady outfit, with the Paris-Roubaix winner still recovering from a bout of pneumonia. Also missing from this year’s race is Mark Renshaw, with the Columbia-HTC rider undergoing an enforced period of rest after being diagnosed with Epstein Barr virus in December.
"This is the best field we have ever had for the Jayco Bay Classic, " said race director John Trevorrow. "It was disappointing to lose Stuart O'Grady and Mark Renshaw to illness but to be topped up in compensation with Jack Bobridge and another world champion Brett Lancaster is pretty special.
"It shows the standing in which the event is held by the riders and those around them," he added.
While Brown is coming into the race in good form, all eyes will be on McEwen as he returns after an injury-plagued 2009. In addition to having won six Jayco Bay Cycling Classic titles, McEwen’s Mazda team has formidable strength in Greg Henderson (Columbia-HTC) and Mathew Hayman (Team Sky) plus is managed by former Bay Classic and Giro d’Italia stage winner Dave McKenzie.
McEwen’s won’t be the only well-rounded team lining out in the men’s races. While Brown has Mitchell Docker and Dean Windsor in his camp and Cooke the support of Team Sky’s Chris Sutton and Cervelo Test Team’s Jeremy Hunt, Leigh Howard’s Jayco Victorian Institute of Sport team has the handy help of Lancaster and Matt Wilson, who will ride for Garmin-Transitions in 2010.
Despite the strength of the professional riders on hand, the action may not go their way. In particular brothers Scott and Jackson Law are in good form, both having successful outings at the Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals, and will ride for the NSW Institute of Sport and Budget Forklifts teams respectively.
Broun enjoyed a strong season in 2009, including a stage victory at Nature Valley Grand Prix in the United States of America, which started with her three stage victories and the overall Bay Cycling Classic title. Broun will have the support of a strong Jayco Australian Institute of Sport team that includes Lauren Kitchen, Amanda Spratt and Carlee Taylor.
Hoping to hold off Broun will be 2002 winner Rochelle Gilmore, who leads the Honda Dream Team. Gilmore will enjoy the support of track world champion Josephine Tomic and road youngsters Peta Mullens and Tiffany Cromwell.
“We’ve got a really strong team with really good criterium riders and I’m communicating with girls daily to make sure their on track to be in good form,” said Gilmore. “If everyone is fit and healthy we’ll have one of the strongest teams. Having said that there’s going to be a lot of strong competition.
“There’ll be experienced riders like Belinda Goss and Kirsty Broun to contend with and the NSW institute of Sport has combined with the Victorian Institute of Sport to build a team around Megan Dunn,” she added.
In Dunn poses a real threat to the more experienced women’s riders. At just 18 years of age, Dunn isn’t only one of the hottest prospects in Australian women’s cycling, she’s also a former Jayco Bay Series champion. Dunn stunned crowds when she claimed her first title at 16 in 2008 and will be looking to add a second crown this year.
This year’s race has been shortened from five stages to four. It also features a new course in Geelong’s eastern gardens, which will be the second stage of this year’s event.